Don’t Look Now (1973) is a seminal horror movie directed by Nicolas Roeg. It has been described as a ground-breaking movie for many different reasons (like the explicit sex scene). However, perhaps its biggest distinction is pioneering what we now call the “mindfuck” movie.
You know what I mean. The kind of movie that appears to be one thing but in fact, is something completely different. Assumptions of plot and characters are overturned revealing a twist that changes everything in the movie.
In this article I will explain the mind bending twists in Don’t Look Now, so please watch the movie first before reading on, as obviously spoilers will ensue.
At face value, the plot of Don’t Look Now seems straightforward. The movie begins with the drowning of Christine, the young daughter of Laura (Julie Christie) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland). Later, the story picks up with the couple in Venice, where John is restoring a church.
They encounter a pair of elderly sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania) at a restaurant. Wendy – who is blind – claims to be psychic and tells Laura that she has ‘seen’ Christine with the couple. Despite John’s misgivings, Laura spends more time with the sisters and through Wendy’s visions, feels uplifted from her previous depressed state. Wendy does pass on a message from Christine that John should leave Venice as soon as possible.
Nothing too unusual so far. Then, Laura has to leave for England to tend to their son. Back in Venice, John sees Laura together with the sisters on a boat. He is convinced that Laura somehow came back to Venice. John tries looking for her in Venice but is unable to do so. He reports her ‘disappearance’ to the police and implicates the sisters.
However, John then receives a phone call from Laura to inform him that all is well. John is clearly puzzled by the turn of events. He goes to the police station to update them on Laura’s status and to release Wendy who has been detained. He escorts Wendy home and then leaves. Wendy subsequently becomes very upset and begging Heather to stop John.
Meanwhile, Laura is back in Venice and just misses John at Wendy’s place. Wendy shares her dire warning with Laura again who pursues John. John himself is chasing after what he believes is a child in a similar red raincoat that Christine wore when she drowned.
When John finally encounters the child, he is shocked to find that she is a dwarf and slices his neck with a sharp blade. As John dies, he realises that when he saw Laura and the sisters the previous day, it was a premonition of his own death.
Earlier, John had also witnessed the police pulling a dead body from the waters, indicating that a murderer was loose in the city. On that same day, John had narrowly escaped death when a scaffolding at the church restoration collapses.
John has the gift of premonition. Wendy says as much when Laura tells her that John sensed that Christine was in trouble but was too late to save her. Ironically, the premonition was self-fulfilling as John would not have been in a position to be attacked by the dwarf if he had not acted on his premonition in that particular manner.
If only John had checked with his son’s boarding school, he would have realised that Laura was not in Venice at all. Perhaps he would not have pursued the matter with the police. Then, Wendy would not have been detained and the whole chain of events would have been avoided. However, maybe John was simply fated to die and his gift was part of that process.
Don’t Look Now is a truly thought-provoking and mind-blowing horror movie. Highly recommended.
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