Screened: October 15, 2008
Format: DVD - Paramount (2002)
Since its 1973 premiere, Nicholas Roegâ€™s Donâ€™t Look Now has acquired a reputation as one of the finest, most artful British thrillers ever made. At the time of the filmâ€™s production, the English Roeg had moved from a career as an accomplished cinematographer to securing a Palm d’Or nomination at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1971 Outback drama, Walkabout. Donâ€™t Look Now paired Roeg with New Hollywood icons Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie for a chilling, often surreal tale of grief and madness amid the canals and crumbling churches of Venice. By 1973, the Canadian Sutherland had transitioned from a prestigious television career to leading roles in films such as MASH and Klute. English native Christie had achieved a glamorous celebrity after her appearance in Doctor Zhivago, followed by a string of acclaimed features, including Fahrenheit 451 and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
With Donâ€™t Look Now, Roeg transforms a relatively straightforward story of mystery and perhaps supernatural terror into a slow-burn experiment in pure mood. Sutherland and Christie portray an architect and his wife, who have moved to Venice to escape the grief over their recently deceased young daughter. Strange things begin to happenâ€”coincidences, accidents, visits from menacing strangersâ€”but they donâ€™t seem to add up. All the while the Venice police are searching for a remorseless killer. Much like Sutherland, we find ourselves asking, â€œWhat am I really afraid of? Am I losing it?â€
The film is justifiably famous for its atmosphere, and also for its torrid love scene between Sutherland and Christie. Roeg allegedly added this sequence as an ad hoc modification to the script, editing it in his signature cross-cutting style. The sceneâ€™s notoriety was enhanced by rumors that the actors eventually became entwined in a real romance. However, the film uses this scene not for titillation, but as a powerful counterpoint to the disintegrating relationship between Sutherland and Christieâ€™s characters. Throughout its slowly unfolding events, Don’t Look Now gradually evokes an atmosphere of doom. This aura culminates when the film reaches its bizarre, shocking conclusion, one still hotly debated among critics.