Don't Look Now: What Does The Ending Really Mean?

Seeing red gets an entirely new meaning.

Don't Look Now
Paramount Pictures

One of the seminal film works of both the 1970s and the horror genre as a whole, Nicolas Roeg's vision of grief and violence - and of course that one particularly intense sex scene everyone remembers it for - has made Don't Look Now a lasting piece of cinematic history. But it's also a bewildering watch at best, creating a story through symbolism and visuals rather than outright conversation.

By taking a more impressionistic approach to his movie than the norm, Roeg gives us a story that has an undeniably chilling atmosphere, built upon hard cuts and interwoven scenes that suggest something far larger and darker at play than the surface narrative we're given. Whilst it works excellently in establishing a creepy, brooding tone, it doesn't do wonders for helping an audience get to what the ending really means.

Especially when said ending is a random maniacal dwarf woman appearing full Twin Peaks style and hacking Donald Sutherland in the neck.

Before we get head of ourselves, however, we need to explore exactly what moments lead up to this, and how one little girl's death was the pivotal point that sent the Baxter family down a winding downwards spiral. Christine Baxter is the beating heart of this story after all, decked out appropriately in a blood red rain mac that endlessly haunts our protagonists, sending a message from beyond the grave that requires some translation...

5. The Narrative

Dont Look Now
British Lion Films

The general premise of Don't Look Now is the attempts of grief-stricken couple John and Laura Baxter attempting to reconnect and thrive in the wake of losing their daughter, who drowned in their garden pond whilst the pair were unaware indoors. A few months later, architect John takes on a job in Venice to restore an old church, where he and his wife try to find some solace in the new environment and move on from the tragedy that defines their continued existence. Everything appears to go well initially, until the pair meet two old women - Wendy and Heather - of which the latter has psychic abilities and claims to see Christine in the afterlife.

John begins to have continued experiences with seemingly supernatural visions, witnessing Christine's red raincoat around the watery city and slowly coming to believe in the two women's tales as ardently as his desperate wife does. His mistake, however, comes when he tries to pursue the coat, resulting in his violent death at the hands of a stranger.

Whilst the film doesn't feel like it makes sense with this completely jarring ending initially, Roeg has seeded crumbs throughout the film as to what actually can be perceived as happening by the time we witness a murder. The most important factor to take into account, then, is from Heather's claim that John also has a psychic ability early on in the movie. When speaking with Laura, as the trio meet in the cafe, she tells her:

"He has the gift. That's why the child was trying to talk to him. He has the gift. Even if he doesn't know it. Even if he's resisting it. It's a curse as well as a gift."

 
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