Now, using research sources as well as your own close analysis of this and other films to support your argument. Kathryn Cameron January 2012 3,088 Contents Introduction(Page 3) The Colour Red(Page 4) Water and Reflection(Page 7) Falling and Smashing Glass(Page 10) Deformity(Page 12) Conclusion(Page 13) References(Page 14) Introduction 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 wearing the red coat was changed from the mother to the little girl in the film to give the symbol of death and danger more meaning, and the fact that a female child is wearing the red coat is more menacing and disturbing.
Red is used throughout the film to reinforce the message of the red coat. Before John and Laura make love for the first time since Christine died, they are looking at a piece of artwork which has a red object in the centre.This makes the colour red seem like an obvious symbol for love, or passion, as well as continuing to hold a deeper meaning of death. The cardinal’s red hat is significant because throughout the film it seems as though he knows something the audience doesn’t, which leads to suspicion of his behaviour.
He is in some way connected to the danger through the red hat. Peter Bradshaw (2011) writes "... while Christine's death is a terrible accident, and yet the staging here implies something willed – a grotesque, parodic christening ceremony which is a sinister symbol or prophecy of another death still to come.We know this because of how the events leading to her death are set up, with her red raincoat and the red figure in John's picture slide.
Care is taken not to use the colour red in shots unless it is intentional; the audience are made fully aware of the importance of a red object. For example, the red raincoat on both Christine and the mysterious figure, the art in the magazine, the cardinal’s hat and the flowers on the boat at John's funeral are all red because they hold a significance. There are many other films and stories where the red coat worn by a child is a symbol for something sinister.Perhaps the most famous and obvious examples are Schindler's List (1991) and the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood (1812). Nancy R. Fenn said: According to the mysterious but knowable laws of the subconscious mind, anyone who dressed their little girl in a red coat might know they were headed for trouble and in this context, the trouble is very serious indeed.
We know some things far, far ahead of the time they are decreed to happen... This is evident in both Schindler's List and in Little Red Riding Hood, where the two girls wearing red coats both die (although some versions of Little Red Riding Hood have an alternative ending).
The audience anticipate that the girl wearing the red coat is in serious danger. Red has been used as a focal point in numerous other films. In The Sixth Sense (1999) red is used as an ominous precursor to alert the audience that something alarming is about to happen: clothing worn by various characters just before a startling revelation; a red balloon floats up towards the roof of a house where a haunted room is situated; and a red door handle leads to the dead man's basement study. The use of imagery in films is a challenge for directors.
Too little and the theme may be overlooked, too much and the audience may feel patronised. For example, M Night Shyamalan repeated the formula of using colour as a theme but I would argue that he may have focussed too much on reproducing his previous success and on achieving an “arty”, signature feel to his films to the detriment of the finished work. In a much earlier cinematic experience red shoes were used in The Wizard of Oz (1939) as a representation of danger and power. Continuing this theme, The Red Shoes (1948) pose another question.
As well as being a symbol of danger the ballet shoes are depicted as having a life of their own and the viewer is left wondering whether the heroine's death is an accident or the result of the shoes driving her to her death. Water and Reflection The theme of red ties in with another central theme, water, which is used in a threatening way throughout the film. In the original short story, Christine’s death is due to meningitis. Death by drowning was a much more dramatic device to use in the film, tying the themes of water and reflections together.The first image we see in the film is heavy rain hitting a lake, which is a good example of pathetic fallacy as it makes the audience feel uneasy and gives the impression of impending doom.
Christine drowns after falling into the lake. This is predestined as before the incident the reflection of Christine in her red coat is shown in the water, leading the audience to become aware of her fate. Later on in the film, John sees the reflection of the red coat in the canals of Venice, which reinforces the impression that something bad is going to happen.Before Christine’s death, John is seen looking at picture slides of the inside of a church. In one of the pictures, he sees the image of a figure wearing a red coat identical to the one his daughter wears.
He accidently spills water on the picture. The red ink slowly begins to run, looking blood-like. The speed of the blood-like substance is important as it is symbolic of Christine's death. However, this is also the initial premonition of his own death - he is killed in a church building by the mysterious figure, even though he is not aware of it being his premonition coming true until the moment before he is killed.
Over exaggerated red blood runs from his neck similarly to how the picture ran red when he spilled water on it. The bright colour of blood is used to connect the other red objects in the film, which all played a part in leading to his death, ending with the red flowers at his funeral. Ironically, John takes Laura to the 'City of Water' to try and mend the heartache over Christine's death and because he has taken up a job restoring a church building. The only method of transport through Venice is by boat or winding, narrow pathways, which means that John and Laura are almost constantly surrounded by water.
This creates a sense of their vulnerability; everywhere they go they are surrounded by reminders of their daughter's death. A good metaphor used in the film which illustrates this is when John picks up a plastic doll from the canal. This makes the audience subconsciously reflect back to when he pulled Christine out of the lake at their country home. This, and the fact that he sees her reflection in the canals on more than one occasion, show that he is haunted by her death. Hitchcock used the theme of reflection and water, in a number of films. In Psycho (1960) mirrors are used throughout the film.
Marion's face is reflected in the sunglasses of a policeman and her eyes are caught several times in the rear view mirror as she is driving away with the stolen money. Later, a window in the motel reflects Norman and Marion together. More obviously, in the notorious shower scene, the gushing water together with an iconic soundtrack capture violence, power and danger. Whilst no strike of the weapon is actually seen, it is the imagination of the viewer which fills in the gaps of the screen shots, enhanced by the dark colouration to the water draining away in the bath tub.
Constantine (2005) makes several references to water, including the scenes with the twin sisters where water has been used to symbolise birth and rebirth. In addition, in the exorcism in the opening scenes of the film the demon is viewed through the mirror. Later on Constantine mentions that sitting with his feet in water aids his transition between dimensions and a water filled globe was used as a means of travel. In Inception (2010) water is used to relate to dream states and travelling through dimensions. For example the film starts with Cobb being washed up on a beach.The characters discuss the “kick” which is necessary to wake someone up in an emergency.
This is where the dreamer is plunged into water which shocks them back into the waking world. Early in the film Cobb is pushed backwards into a bath of water and this ensures the viewer understands the principle when the team fall into a river from a high bridge. Other scenes use rain and storms which, like Constantine, symbolise travel between worlds. Reflections are used throughout Black Swan (2010) to illustrate how Nina is struggling with real life and her dancing role.
As the Black Swan consumes Nina, the mirrors in the theatre and in particular in Nina’s dressing room show her reflection to be moving independently of her, which create a sinister and heightened suspense. The Black Swan finally takes over at the end of the film when a mirror breaks, removing the symbolic wall between the two halves of Nina’s warring personality. Falling and Smashing Glass The main themes of red, water and reflections tie in very well with the additional theme of falling in Don't Look Now, beginning with Christine falling into the lake (although we don't actually see this happening).This is followed by Laura fainting in the restaurant after talking to the two sisters. Johnnie falls and injures himself at school (we don't see this happening either), which results in Laura flying back to England from Venice to look after him, leaving John in Venice by himself. John almost dies while fixing mosaics in place in the church he is refurbishing.
He is standing on a swinging scaffold that collapses, causing him to fall. Each member of the family takes a serious fall in one way or another.I consider the act of falling to be an important element of the film because it adds to the paranormal, as though even though they seem to be accidents, there seem to be greater forces at work. It is also connected to the act of smashing glass and the exaggerated sound that accompanies it. Before Christine drowns in the lake, Johnnie rides his bike over a small segment of glass, causing it to break.
When Laura faints in the restaurant, the glasses on the table fall to the ground and spill water all over the floor.Before John falls from the scaffolding, a rogue panel of wood falls down from the ceiling into a pane of glass, smashing it. It is a very menacing image to see in the film, because it is foreboding in the sense that once we've seen or heard glass being smashed, we know something bad will happen. In my opinion it acts to include the audience in the paranormal elements of the film, as if we can predict what is going to happen before it happens, much like the gift that John possesses in the film. Greg Jameson (2011) states that:Evocative images such as a red coat and the colour bleeding on the slide of a church, as well as recurring motifs of water and breaking glass combine with a small cast and tight storytelling to make Don’t Look Now feel more like a psychological thriller than a horror, the genre it is often uneasily forced into. I fully agree with this statement as I think the film was marketed more as a horror film than as a thriller, because of the paranormal elements and the blood motifs.
In Labyrinth (1986) there are several references to falling.The "helping hands" barely prevent Sarah falling to the oubliette. There is further trouble when Sarah almost tumbles into the pit of abominable stench. Sarah reaches self-recognition when she realises what the Goblin King has offered her. "It's all trash" she says, and smashes a mirror and falls back to the Labyrinth to continue searching for her brother who has been taken by the Goblin King.
This is a contradiction to the usual meaning which falling produces. Sarah's realisation of what is really important underlines her transformation to a more adult and less elfish attitude and reinforces her sense of purpose and love for her brother. In the closing scenes the viewer is concerned that the baby may fall from the MC Escher (1953) styled staircases. This creates drama and suspense for both adult and child viewers. Deformity There is a subsidiary theme of decay and deformity.
Venice is in a constant state of repair and restoration as buildings crumble into the water. The sister who purportedly has psychic powers is blind. In literature and film, psychic powers are often related to physical disability.In The Dead Zone (1983), the main character Johnny develops psychic abilities following a car accident which leaves him with a limp. He grows weaker and deteriorates physically throughout the film, developing headaches and shutting himself away from people due to the traumatic visions which are produced when he has any contact with others.
The shocking climax reveals that the serial killer is a dwarf. In the arts, dwarves seem to be depicted at two ends of the spectrum, either humorous and lovable (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) (1937) or evil and malicious (The Princess Bride) (1987).Rarely is a dwarf portrayed as a hero (Willow) (1988). Conclusion The themes used in this film are classic devices which have been used in many productions either on their own or in a combination, some of which have been mentioned above.
Kubrick used the colour red (including the words “red rum”) and mirrors to great effect in The Shining (1980). Hitchcock used falling in numerous films. The main themes in this film have therefore been tried and tested. The success relies on intertwining the themes together. This includes the use of reflections - especially when these are red - caught in mirrors, water and glass.It also includes the repeated references to falling which are often combined with one of the other elements: falling with glass breaking or with water spilling.
The linking of these themes creates a stylish, atmospheric drama which has a heavy sense of doom and foreboding. The shocking ending, when the endangered child is actually revealed to be the serial killer, and a dwarf, could quite easily be ludicrous. However, perhaps because of the fairy tale connotations of Little Red Riding Hood it is more easy to accept that the villain of the piece is also seen as a character from legends and fairy tales.