The Haunted Column | 'Don't Look Now': A haunting tale of grief and the supernatural

Donald Sutherland
A still from the movie 'Don't Look Now'. Photo: IMDb

'Don't Look Now', directed by Nicolas Roeg, stands as a masterful cinematic achievement, blending eerie atmospheres, poignant tragedy, and unsettling bleakness. The film delves into the depths of grief, loss, and the supernatural, offering a unique and captivating exploration of these themes. While not easily confined to the traditional horror genre, 'Don't Look Now' possesses a multitude of spine-chilling moments that leave viewers disturbed and enthralled by its brilliance.

The film revolves around John and Laura Baxter, a grieving couple portrayed by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, who seeks solace in Venice following the devastating loss of their daughter. In the labyrinthine canals of the city, they encounter enigmatic sisters, one of whom claims to possess psychic powers, enabling communication with the dead. As the couple becomes entwined in a web of eerie occurrences and prophetic visions, their own perceptions and sanity tilt on the edge of reality.

The movie takes a distinct approach, placing psychology and grief at the forefront rather than relying solely on supernatural elements. It possesses an intangible quality that evokes a dark and unsettling atmosphere, even when nothing overtly out of the ordinary is occurring. The film effectively creates a sense of unease through its carefully crafted scenes, such as the haunting moment when the Baxter couple's daughter tragically drowns. John's desperate retrieval of her lifeless body from the pond is accompanied by an eerie background score, heightening the sense of unease instead of following a typical tragic soundtrack.

The movie also shines in its portrayal of Venice, presenting a stark departure from the typical perception of the city. While Venice is often associated with romance, warmth, and sunshine, 'Don't Look Now' takes a different approach. The filmmakers depict a Venice engulfed in a dark and gloomy sadness, creating a haunting atmosphere that resonates throughout the film. This unique perspective allows us to see the city through the eyes of the grieving couple, who view Venice through the lens of their own sorrow.

While John embodies a sense of practicality, Laura, a sensible woman, yearns to hold onto the belief that their daughter's spirit lingers around them. This internal conflict serves as a reminder of how a tragic event can profoundly alter our perception of reality. The film skillfully explores the intricate complexities of human emotions and the ways in which they shape our understanding of the world. By delving into this thought-provoking territory, the movie invites viewers to contemplate the power of belief and its influence on our lives in the face of adversity.

Nicolas Roeg's directorial genius is truly exemplified in 'Don't Look Now' as it delicately explores the depths of grief. The film ingeniously reveals how grief, the darkest of emotions, can ruin even the most resilient relationships and erode one's very sense of self. Remarkably, even the climax of the movie refuses to offer solace, leaving viewers haunted by yet another manifestation of sorrow. With its masterful portrayal, the movie fearlessly delves into the terrifying realm of grief, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of its audience.

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