Hutchinson, Tom. Horror & Fantasy in the Movies. New York: Crescent Books, 1974: 13-36.
Hutchinson goes beyond merely mapping out the history of horror cinema, and dedicates the first chapter of his book to revealing the deeper meanings beyond certain horror films. Behind the blood and monsters, Hutchinson sees social commentary and much more, which the average viewer is completely unaware of. He events of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and concludes that its underlying message is, “that we ought to co-operate or else” (23). Hutchinson writes that Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), another 1950s sci-fi film, “carries a warning about loss of identity, an all-too-grim idea in a world where individuality is ironed out into uniform characteristics of thought and yes-saying” (23).
Hutchinson begins his analysis with the birth of cinema and the fantasy shorts of George Meliès. He moves into German Expressionist films, such as Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) (19-21). He also refers to Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942) as further examples of horror films with social messages (23). Hutchinson argues though, that one cannot simply voice these messages, or warnings, to the audience directly. As he says, they must be “wrapped up in trappings of tinsel before they will be accepted” (28).
Don’t Look Now (1972) is one of those films whose meaning is “wrapped in trappings of tinsel” (28). Hutchinson explains that, “[Donald] Sutherland here carries the seeds of his own destruction within himself, but will never know it” (29). Reflexively, we are placed in the same position as Sutherland, because we are also unable to interpret the signs to recognize the future (e.g. our doom). Hutchinson’s argument is that, “[Sutherland] is time-trapped in the way that we all are, unable to move beyond his three-dimensional context” (29). Hutchinson ties into a theme explored in other sources I have encountered, that of time and space (in Don’t Look Now). He, unfortunately, does not give the theme an adequate explication (quickly moving to the next film), but he does place the film in relation to other horror films that do more than just scare. One is easier able to understand Don’t Look Now, when placed in the context of other horror films...
Dempsey begins his review by comparing Roeg’s film to the source material, Daphne du Maurier’s short story. He blames the film’s “creaky plot” on Du Maurier, who (he claims), “specializes in romantic sludge” (39). Dempsey understands that the film’s weak plot is not the fault of Roeg, so he is not too harsh in his criticism of Roeg’s handling of the plot. He states that, “too often the gears grind when Roeg tries to shift from this old-hat storyline to the subtext of fear and uncertainty that he has built into it” (39). Dempsey actually compliments Roeg for creating a fascinating film from a plot, which he is admittedly not fond of. The saving grace of the film, according to Dempsey, is Roeg, more explicitly, his style. Dempsey writes that, “Roeg’s style pitches us headlong into [John and Laura’s] disorientation” (40). Dempsey allocates most of his review to explaining of Roeg’s style, which Roeg achieves through editing. Dempsey goes so far as to compare Roeg to the famous Russian montage filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, because Roeg too “lean[s] heavily on editing for his effects” (40). The effect that Roeg produces with montage is the same effect described by James Palmer in his essay, “Seeing, Believing, and “Knowing” in Narrative Film: Don’t Look Now Revisited.” Using montage, Roeg “undercut[s] our total allegiance to reason” (41); in effect, making us mistrust out vision the same way that John mistrusts his. Roeg’s use of montage has the opposite effect of Eisenstein’s, undermining the action, instead of reinforcing it. Dempsey describes, “Roeg’s montage does not say that two shots are connected; it says that they might be” (41). The idea of not knowing, of being forced to puzzle it out, is the essence of Don’t Look Now and is the same theme discussed in Palmer’s essay.
Dempsey’s review, unlike any other analyses of Don’t Look Now that I discovered, features an in-depth analysis of the love-making scene, which is probably the most well-known scene in Don’t Look Now. He argues that, the intercutting of sex shots with shots of the couple getting dressed, “makes the sense doubly erotic-yet also melancholy” (41). We get the sense, from the intercutting, that, “no matter how intense their love or how satisfying their sex may be, John and Laura still cannot save themselves” (41)...
Wilson, Kristi. “Time, Space, and Vision: Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.” Screen 40(3) (1999): 277-94.
Wilson is a feminist film critic (she lets the reader know from the start), so her analysis of Don’t Look Now comes from a completely different perspective than other available analyses. She argues that the film represents “failed masculinity” (294), embodied by John Baxter and his failure to prevent his death. John’s failure comes from his inability to interpret space. The first hard evidence of this that Wilson brings up is the book John has written, Fragile Geometry (Laura is reading it in the opening sequence). Wilson argues that the title of the book reflects John’s own failure at understand the “fragile geometry” of time and space. Roeg’s montage, with its questionable linearity, visually represents this “fragile geometry.” Roeg blurs the lines between the real and the unreal and the past, present, and future. Wilson refers to the effect of Roeg’s montage as “slippage,” because Roeg moves between real and unreal, for example, so fluidly, that the audience rarely picks up on it. She articulates the effect of this “slippage” on the audience, when she explains:
All that seems solid where the film is concerned, whether we are referring to Roeg’s visually unconventional presentation of the narrative, or his character’s sense of architectural/geographical control, proves to be illusory. (294)
She argues that the sequence, in which blood appears on John’s slide, “provides a literal example of physical slippage between background and foreground” (290). Wilson sees John as a synecdoche for all men, in his inability to recognize “slippage” (i.e. recognize omens and portents), because all of the women in the film are attuned to the “slippage” and recognize when the unreal world (e.g. the spirit world) enters the real world. I disagree with this assumption, because I don’t see all the women as recognizing the “slippage.” Heather does, because she has the gift of ‘second sight;’ the other women merely believe that she can see the “slippage”...