Well, that was close to two hours of my life I won’t get back.
With Venice just over the horizon, a colleague had insisted that we should watch the 1973 film, Don’t Look Now before travelling. Quite coincidentally, it was scheduled for the early hours of Monday morning – so we recorded it and sat down to watch last night.
Now given that the colleague in question is part time – and spends the rest of his working life as a film critic, up to and including being on the juries of assorted film festivals, I was expecting something good.
But as you might already gather, I emerged with a sense of having wasted my time.
For those of you who, like me until last night, don’t know the story, it features a couple, Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) whose daughter has recently drowned.
They’re in Venice for his work as a church restorer, when Laura meets a couple of elderly English sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be psychic – and able to see their dead daughter.
John is concerned by what he sees as his wife’s irrational fascination with the sisters – and what he increasingly thinks is their control over her. But he’s also starting to have strange experiences himself.
Now, it’s all very interestingly shot – this is Venice in the winter; grey and gloomy, almost completely deserted and full of echoes.
That is eerie and well done. But the plot, to my mind, is poor.
Even with genres that deal with the fantastical – and I’d include ghost stories and horror movies in that – you need a certain logic to apply. This film lacks that, to my mind.
What is director Nicolas Roeg trying to say? That John’s fate comes about because he doesn’t pay attention to his psychic side?
But then again, he is saved from a potentially fatal accident when in a church – so perhaps conventional Catholicism would be his salvation?
And Laura – what of her? Isn’t her belief in the psychic sister the root of the problem – if she hadn’t been so taken by it, perhaps John wouldn’t have started ‘seeing things’.
And as for the red dwarf – well where does she come from and what is her relationship to the rest of the events in the film? It took me a bit of Googling this morning to find out what some viewers believe to be the answer to that – but there are no hints in the film to make it remotely clear. And I think it’s fair to say that I’m not an illiterate viewer in terms of films.
I don’t have a problem with ghost stories or horror movies or even things more generally to do with the supernatural. But they still need logic within their own parameters – and a sound and consistent plot. This seemed lacking on several fronts.
So, whatever my colleague might think, this is not going to be ‘my Venice movie’.