Don’t Look Now
Fundamentally, Don’t Look Now is a dirty film; a film of spreading red stains, of dripping liquids, of mud and blood and breaking glass. It is a messy examination of entropy: things fall and fall apart and we try to restore what can’t be repaired and recover what has already been irretrievably lost. And this filthiness comes with the city of Venice. When we first see Venice (aside from a brief shot of the sunlight through the slats of the Venetian blinds), we are in a trench with John Baxter, the bereaved architect played brilliantly by Donald Sutherland. He is supervising the restoration of a church and the workmen are drilling into the foundation, the petrified forest of the city’s substrata. ‘Tutto marcio,’ the disgruntled Baxter tells the Italian worker. ‘It’s all rotten.’ In a crucial change to the Daphne du Maurier short story, John Baxter and his wife Laura are not holidaying in Venice, rather he is working. Venice, for Baxter, is a building site, and not a good one. The church, San NicolÃ² dei Mendicoli (Saint Nicholas of the Beggars), has an unassuming, perhaps beggarly exterior, and (in a city that is almost all faÃ§ade) has no great faÃ§ade. Tucked away in an unvisited corner of Venice, not far from the prison at Santa Marta, the church was in the process of being renovated in 1973, providing Roeg with the scaffolding he needed. Roeg’s Venice is a wintry, dirty workaday city; a city of hospitals, police offices and off-season hotels. It is a city with a rat problem (still very much the case), a city of lost gloves on windowsills and a baby doll abandoned on the steps down to the canal. In the final funereal shot of the film, we see a huge pile of bin bags in the background, also awaiting disposal.