This is a psychological and moody thriller with a jarring and unpredictable end to it. Well, it's not unpredictable, at all, actually. But it's still incredibly shocking, which is quite a feat, if you think about it. But then, this isn't a film for lovers of narrative. It has sort of an interesting narrative formula--it begins and ends with a bang, with a lot of floating in between of prescient imagery and dialogue, as well as a famed sex scene.
I actually watched this on Valentine's day, solidifying my penchant for the macabre on holidays with expectations of familial and/or romantic affection. However, this movie was totally appropriate. First of all, check out the visual theme of blood red! Secondly, the story is centered on the loving, albeit strained relationship of a married couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), following the death of their young daughter. This event takes place in the opening scene of the film. John has a sudden vision of the occurrence shortly following the ominous spill on the slide he is working with (see above). Throughout the rest of the film, we are revisited by images that recall the dead girl in his arms.
Following this calamitous event, the Baxters relocate to Venice, where John is restoring a church. Being constantly surrounded by water, much like the lake where their daughter met her demise, this is the perfect setting for the inevitable portentous reflection and imagery. Roeg also uses the setting to evoke a sense of isolation and even claustrophobia.
What really makes this film visually memorable is not only the many reflective shots and zooms, but the harshness of the parallel editing. Although it is often used to represent simultaneity of actions across a distance, the editing here sometimes has the effect of creating an overlay of present and future. The opening scene lays the groundwork for this editing style. As John and Laura lounge about in their living room, their daughter runs by the waterside. Though the daughter is an important character in the film, we never see her alive with either of her parents; she is, and will always be, separate. Probably the most famous montage in the film is the lengthy, graphic sex scene, which is inter-cut with images of the Baxters getting dressed afterward, in their separate spaces. I think this collapsing of time is interesting, since this is a movie where fate plays a big role. Time is out of sync, as if it doesn't matter. Of course these montages also highlight the separateness of the characters. Simultaneously, they are having incredibly separate experiences, each one alone.
I am a sucker for supernatural elements in fiction and film, particularly if they are used well. In Don't Look Now, Laura stumbles upon a pair of sisters, one of whom has the gift of "seeing". She is blind, but she can interact with the dead. There are hints that John has this capability as well, though he is suppressing it. This undercurrent of clairvoyance creates an interesting circularity in the plot. The film begins and ends with deaths that are inexorably linked. By the end, I wondered whether the imagery throughout the film was recalling John's daughter's death or (ahem, SPOILERS) predicting his own. In its final moments, this movie gets extremely dark, and as I said, shocking.
Also, if you're interested, I found this funny montage of the film, which is set to a Moby song. The internet makes great things, doesn't it?
And because I just can't help myself... the final moments of the film, which means, the part when all is revealed. And also a good demonstration of the montage technique used throughout to heighten the fatalistic aspects. I hate the term SPOILERS, since this blog isn't really about reviewing; it's about analysis (however basic). But I guess it's only polite to use it here.