DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

dont-smear

Christopher

This movie is so awesome. I do have some bad memories tied to this movie though but that’s all based off seeing this with my family. This movie has a long-ass sex scene that gets pretty intimate, but other than that I remember being pretty obsessed with the last part of this movie. It’s so weird, the reason I think why Elizabeth isn’t into it, but man it’s so weird!!!!

The kind of movies, TV shows, comics, books, music etc. that I love the most are the kind that make me want to make my own art all night long. And I think this movie does that to me. I love all the sounds in this film, I love that it’s set in Venice, and I love that the ending is legitimately insane.

If you have not seen this movie, see it. BUT NOT WITH YOUR FAMILY!

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Oh, Don’t Look Now. Why do you hurt me so?

Let me start off first by saying that I always wanted to see Don’t Look Now and I wanted to love it and there are so many things about it that I do love. I love the much-discussed sex scene; not because it was particularly sexy, but because it’s a scene cut with another scene, one of the couple, John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie), getting ready for dinner post-sex. I love this because the sex scene is pretty graphic, but the scene of them getting ready is totally mundane. To me, this is showing that this couple really loves each other and know how to have a life together – they don’t just have to be a boring couple or this couple that’s all over each other – they can be both. I loved that.

And I love what I feel like is probably the main (or one of the main) themes of Don’t Look Now, which is how grief affects people, and couples in particular. The movie opens with the death of the Baxters’ daughter, Christine, who drowns just before John can save her. The rest of the movie takes place some time later, with the Baxters’ son in boarding school in England and the Baxters in Venice, where John is overseeing the restoration of a church. In Venice, Laura meets two sisters, Heather and Wendy. Heather says she’s psychic and can see Christine from the afterlife and that Christine is trying to warn them of danger ahead for John if he stays in Venice. John keeps seeing glimpses of what he thinks is a young girl in a red coat, which is what Christine wore when she drowned. John doesn’t believe in the psychic stuff, but Laura does, and it significantly helps her recover from Christine’s death. Even though this separates John and Laura a bit, John just seems to be so relieved that Laura feels better. I think this is an interesting idea; it makes sense that John and Laura would grieve differently over Christine. Laura seems to be the most affected, at least outwardly, and has to turn to something extreme to give her relief. John more or less internalizes his grief, which doesn’t really help anyone, especially John in the end.

At some point, it’s implied (I think by Heather – it’s taken me a long time to gather my thoughts and write about this movie) that John has psychic abilities. We see this a bit in the beginning; he seems to be able to picture Christine drowning, but not soon enough to save her. He has other visions, too; after Laura leaves Venice when their son is injured in England, John sees Laura, Heather, and Wendy on a boat next to his ferry, only to discover that Laura is in fact in England like she said.

So here we get to the end of the movie. How do I even go about doing this? Let me tell you how Wikipedia’s summary ends: “John follows the elusive figure to a deserted palazzo, and having cornered it, realises too late that the strange sightings he has been experiencing were premonitions of his own death.” This barely scratches the surface of the ending, to be honest.

So, in the end, John again sees the figure in the red coat that could be Christine. He chases it around Venice. He finally corners the figure and she turns around . . . TO REVEAL HERSELF TO BE A CRAZY GOBLIN WOMAN YIELDING A KNIFE? I was so shocked and confused by this that I have no idea how this woman does this, but she somehow manages to stab John in the neck – and Donald Sutherland is 6’4″ and this woman is made to look about 3 feet tall, so how the hell she murders him via stab to the neck, I have no idea. Then John dies. Then we see Laura, Heather, and Wendy on a boat exactly how John had envisioned them before, except they’re there for John’s funeral.

THE END!!!

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!? Soooooooooooooo, for the whole movie we’ve been following John and Laura, dealing with all this psychic bullshit, trying to make sense of everything. And then it ends with a random, not-connected-to-the-plot-at-all serial killer killing off the main character? And the serial killer FOR REAL LOOKS LIKE A GOBLIN AND WE’RE JUST SUPPOSED TO ACCEPT THAT WITH NO EXPLANATION? Okay, one might make the argument that the serial killer is mentioned during the movie. We even see John watch a body get dragged from the water, killed by the serial killer. But a serial killer being in Venice didn’t even come off as a subplot to me, it was just a minor mention. It certainly was not part of the plot enough to be the one thing to bring the entire story to an end.

And here’s the serious issue I have with the killer looking the way she does. Okay, so if I come to the point where I have no choice but to accept that a serial killer kills John, I STILL DO NOT ACCEPT that the killer is a freakish, elderly, tiny, big-nosed goblin lookalike. Why? Because for the entirety of Don’t Look Now, the filmmakers seem to want the viewers to question and challenge what they see. If the viewers (ie me, in this case) don’t question anything, then what are we supposed to think when John finds out that Laura is in England when he just saw her in Venice? Ho hum, must’ve been nothing? No! We’re obviously supposed to come to our own conclusions, that John was having a vision like he did in the beginning when Christine drowned. Because John’s killer is presumably still at large after he’s killed, no one except John and the killer know what she looks like. So I’m not expecting there to be some big epilogue, Psycho-style, that explains who the killer is and what her story is. But I think the filmmakers have set themselves up for failure with that; for the whole movie we’re supposed to think carefully about what we’re seeing and what it means and how it affects the story as a whole. But in this most crucial moment, they’ve thrown at us something so insane and ridiculous that they can’t really explain it without being expository, but they’ve also set the audience up to question everything up to this point, but to just accept this one crazy thing without thinking twice.

I don’t get it. I hate this ending. I figured John was going to die at the end, and I love this message that the ending sends – that if you chase your own grief so hard that you don’t pay attention to anything else, it could be the end of you – but I hate the way it was done. I’m sure I’m in the minority here and I honestly do want to see it again. Maybe some things will be cleared up for me after watching it again? But it won’t change the ending, so I doubt my feelings will really change.

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