Horror Gems: Don’t Look Now (1973) dir. Nicholas Roeg
When we talk about classic horror cinema,the one that is most talked about is Kubrick’s The Shining,one of the typical and high-achieved visual psychic thriller.Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 horror masterpiece Don’t Look Now falls right into this category,it was once ranked as the No.1 in the BFI top 100 British films,now the ranking dropped but the quality of the film proves that this horror classic can stand the test of time.As a matter of fact,it is one of the best horror films British cinema has ever brought to us along with The Wicker Man and The Innocents.Let’s take a close look at the film’s horror effects.
Can you guess the ending from the beginning?
The Original Short Story
The film is adapted from the original short story of Daphne du Maurier,an English author and playwright whose most famous stories have been adapted to Hitchcock’s Rebecca and The Birds,do I need to say more?
The Narration and Cross-Cutting Techinique
Anyone who has seen this film would be fascinated by how Roeg tells the story,the story itself is really simple,it’s about a couple who is haunted by their daughter’s death during their trip to Venice.The narration is interesting because it displays the events of past,present and future in such a tangled way that you can’t tell which is which in some points.The way Roeg shoots this film should impress you,he uses the cross-cutting technique to inter-cut the past and present in a very quick fashion,there are three big cross-cutting scenes:
Roeg’s artistry at display
The opening sequence with the girl being drowned in the river.Roeg cross-cutting this death scene with their son rides past a breaking glass,and also their father looks at a slide with a girl in red sitting in a church.The effect here is amazing,apparently the breaking glass is the metaphor of the girl’s fragile little life,and the blood in the slide sends the sense of death and chills,also indicates the ending of the film.
The second big scene with a cross-cutting is the controversial love-making scene,it’s a very long scene and it’s one of the boldest sex scene till that time.Roeg interestingly cross-cuts this scene with a later scene in which they get dressed,I’m not quite sure why he did this,but it is a beautiful scene that won’t make any of you feel disgusting or anything worse.As a matter of fact,it is one of the best scene in cinema history that illustrates how love can heal all the wounds.
The last big scene featuring cross-cutting is the surprising ending,where all the answers starts to be revealed.This is such a powerful scene with all the key trivia events displayed one by one as clues,the effect here is as strong as the the mind-blowing ending in The Usual Suspects which leaves you stunned.
Death in Venice
Venice,in my impression,is a beautiful city built above water,but in this film,the city never looks more menacing.It’s very tough to shoot there because all the shooting equipment has to be transported by boats rather than trucks and trains,the film is shot in winter so the color theme throughout the entire film is cold,which is perfect for a horror film.Roeg deliberately avoid the color red in the setting so when the girl in red poncho appears,it is distinctive in the frame,which easily reminds one of the same usage of color in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning picture The Schindler’s List.
Bridge over troubled water
In one of the last sequences where the father chases his daughter image,the city itself became a character,dark,quite and haunting,it makes you feel anything can appear from any angle,the horror effect is there and it’s tremendous.
One criteria of judging if a horror film is a good one or not is its after-effect,the famous ones in history including people avoid swimming in the beach after seeing Jaws and taking showers after seeing Psycho.This film also has its big impact on the mass audiences’ psyche,which is parents never buy red poncho for their lovely daughters again. Roeg achieved what he wanted.
Be aware of girls in red!
If you have never seen this beautiful artistic horror picture before,do the opposite thing the title suggests,LOOK NOW!