Thematic analysis of Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, using research sources as well as your own close analysis of this and other films to support your argument.
The Colour Red
Water and Reflection
Falling and Smashing Glass
Don’t Look Now (1973) is a film about a couple, John and Laura Baxter, who are living in Venice following their daughter, Christine’s, death by drowning. Their remaining child, Johnny, is at boarding school in England. Laura meets two elderly sisters, one a blind psychic who describes “seeing” Christine with John and Laura. John is sceptical when Laura tells him about the meeting but the following events lead to a tragic climax which include John recalling the key incidents in a kind of flashback.
In this analysis I will be discussing themes which occur throughout the film, including their meaning and significance. I will also be looking at comparative themes in other films.
To complement my understanding of the themes in this film I read the original short story by Daphne du Maurier (1971). This helped me to appreciate the adaptations which were made, resulting in effective imagery throughout the film. The adaptation produces a powerful and thought provoking result.
An article written by Miranda Bowen (2005) discusses the various themes used in the film and contains the following description for the film’s title:
And perhaps because it is a film that relies so heavily on a taut image system, in a film that is about seeing and believing (in this case seeing most definitely is not believing), that the text is so powerful. Film, after all is sight and sound. ‘Looking’ (Don’t Look Now!) and ‘seeing’ are the lynchpins of the film. Water (a reflective surface, a looking glass) is everywhere. Christine drowns in a pond in the garden – because John and Laura were not looking...
The Colour Red
Probably the most obvious, and memorable, theme is that of Christine’s red coat. The viewer catches tantalising glimpses of the coat throughout the film. In the original text, Laura is the wearer of the red coat. Changing the wearer of the coat adds drama and suspense. Christine's presence is felt throughout the original short story, although barely mentioned after the opening paragraphs. Roeg uses the compelling device of the red coat to visualise her presence in the film.
Red is commonly associated with death as it is a connotation of blood and danger. Christine is wearing the red coat when she drowns. Christine is the epitome of innocence; a young child playing with her dolls in the garden of her parents’ house. In the case of Christine, the red coat is a warning that she is in danger.
The mysterious figure that John keeps visioning throughout the rest of the film wears a similar coat. In this case, the red coat makes the audience feel perturbed, as if it is the figure that is dangerous, not in any danger itself. The audience recognise that this character is sinister.
The red coat is significant. It connects these two characters, which is important as it leads John to pursue the figure which ultimately leads to his death. The audience can empathise with his attempts to undo the past and act as a protector and save the figure in red which he failed to do for his daughter.
This solidifies the idea that red is danger and brings death. Logically, the audience know that Christine is dead and anything paranormal leads to feelings of uneasiness. The fact that the viewer sees what they think is a girl wearing a red coat long after Christine's death is disturbing and the audience identifies with this. The audience is right to think this, as the mysterious figure turns out to be a serial killer. I believe that the character...
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