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Film / Don't Look Now

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Don't Look Now is a 1973 horror/thriller film directed by Nicolas Roeg, based on a 1971 short story by Daphne du Maurier.

John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie) are mourning the death of their young daughter Christine, who drowned in a pond outside their house, wearing a bright red raincoat. The Baxters travel to Venice, where John is leading the restoration project on an old church. While there, they meet two elderly sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather is blind, but claims to have "second sight", and says that she saw the spirit of Christine with her parents. Heather further suggests that Christine is trying to warn her parents of impending danger, and that John himself has clairvoyant powers.

John is skeptical of all this, and thinks the sisters are trying to dupe his emotionally-fragile wife. While John and Laura work through their grief and try to save their marriage, Venice is being terrorized by a series of murders. Then John notices a small figure darting around the city's alleys, wearing the same kind of coat Christine did when she died. But, as John himself observes, "Nothing is what it seems."


This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The film delves a bit more into the backstory and the relationship between the Baxters than the novella does.
  • Adult Fear: Losing a child, very popular.
  • Alien Geometries: Venice comes across like this, with John and Laura getting lost far too easily in places they should feel familiar with.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A few scenes feature authentic Italian dialogues, some of them being quite important to understand the plot.
  • Blind Seer: Heather, both blind and psychic.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted; not only is it unreliable, the mud makes it unpretty!
  • Creepy Child: Played with. John thinks he sees one, only he's not quite right.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: John. With a meat cleaver to the neck, no less!
  • Death of a Child: The Baxters' daughter Christine drowns in the opening scene.
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  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: No explanation or build up is given to the dwarf at the end.
  • Fainting: Laura passes out at a restaurant after a blind woman claims to have seen Christine sitting between her and John, laughing.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • All over the place, even things that don't seem very important at first.
    • If you know what kind of boat John has a vision of Christine riding on, you have an idea of what's going to happen, as it's a funeral boat.
  • Ghost City: Venice comes across as this. This isn't the sunny touristy Venice, but Venice in the off season, where everything closes early, the streets are dark and wet, and isolation sinks in effortlessly.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: Christine drowns in a bright red coat.
  • Little People Are Surreal: The mysterious dwarf creature who abruptly kills John at the end of the film.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Subverted. Christine Baxter drowns while wearing a red raincoat in the film's opening, and the entire film suggests that she's trying to appear before the Baxters from the beyond but it's really a midget in a red raincoat with a meat cleaver, who murders randomly.
  • Mind Screw: All manner of bizarre imagery and odd events in the film. And the ending makes clear that they were all John's premonitions of his own death, which he didn't take heed of.
  • Misplaced Accent: The Italian characters all speak flawless Italian, but only a couple have a real Venetian accent.
  • Mistaken from Behind: The film ends with a horrific instance of this trope as the bereft parent thinks he can see his daughter and she turns out to be a female dwarf in a red coat carrying a hunting knife, with which she attacks him.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film sticks fairly close to the short story, but makes a couple key changes that heighten the drama: Christine dying in an accident rather than from meningitis, and the Baxters going to Venice for a work project rather than just a vacation.
  • Psychological Horror: The film is more based around building an atmosphere of dread, grief and apprehension than jump scares.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: None of the Italian is subtitled, and having John speak fluently with the Italians keeps the audience further out of the loop.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: John is preparing to go back to England when he inexplicably sees Laura and the two sisters on a boat on the river, which prompts him to stay in Venice in an effort to find Laura. His vision of Laura is in fact a premonition of Laura riding on a funeral boat following his own death. His premonition of his funeral is what prompts him to stay in Venice, which then leads to his death.
  • Sex for Solace: The famous sex scene with John and Laura. It's implied that this is the first time they've been intimate with each other since Christine's death, and they certainly make the most of the situation.
  • Skyward Scream: John, after surfacing with his dead daughter in his arms.
  • Title Drop: None in the film, but it's the opening line in the short story, spoken by John to Laura, referring to the sisters watching them.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: The shot stays on Laura while John has to run to the bathroom, but from the sounds he's making it's pretty clear he's not feeling too well.
    John: I wouldn't go in there for a couple of minutes if I were you.


Example of: