On a spooky Monday night in Brixton, comrade Dr Love invited us into the environs of the wonderful Whirled Cinema to celebrate the 4th annual, and infamous, Demon-ocracy.
Feared and revered by all, this is a night to explore the occult, the darkness, the outright terrifying – all with great company, great pizza (thanks Firezza!) and exclusive use of what must be London’s quirkiest cinema.
Several films were nominated for the occasion, but it was Comrade Lucy who took the victory with her choice, “Don’t Look Now”. This was an inspired choice, only seen by two comrades before and largely unknown to MNFC.
As the opening credits unwound, this comrade was surprised to learn that this 1973 film is based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, an author who clearly specialises in tales with a sense of unnerving foreboding.
Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland feature – in full 70s brown tweed glory – as a couple who have recently experience the tragic loss of their daughter, who drowned. They travel to Venice for his work, which involves restoring a church. There they encounter a pair of sisters, one of whom is clairvoyant; she claims their daughter is trying to contact them, and warns them of danger ahead. As the story – and the couple unravels, we are drawn into this world of seances and premonitions, with his wife more and more desperate to reach out to their daughter, who they start to see alongside the canals of Venice…
This, therefore, is a curious mixture of occult thriller and a study of grief, with question marks over the validity of the visions and his wife’s state of mind.
What the group felt was so effectiveness was the feeling of uneasiness throughout: every character interaction was slightly off-centre, slightly unsettling. Foreshadowing is used heavily, the innovative-of-its-time cut editing creates constant juxtapositions. This makes for a creepy, but not *too* terrifying watch -with the rumbles of the trains running overhead acting as the perfect accompaniment!
MNFC was interested in its place in the horror timeline, and it was agreed that the atmosphere of the film was similar to the Exorcist. We noted how children were often the focus of 70s horror, and talked about how horror has developed through the decades. However, it was very clear that this film has heavily influenced future film-making. The motif of red, to mirror the patent red raincoat that their daughter wore, is replicated in Schindlers List; another scene recalls The Blair Witch Project; elements can be seen in Antichrist; the clever cut-editing merges timelines almost within the same frame – now far more commonly used. This leads us to one of the most infamous, and controversial elements of the film: the sex scene. The film intersects moments of the couple getting ready to go out for dinner with their lovemaking; it led to the film getting an “X” rating on release – and only after all suggestions of “humping” were removed, and the sex scene was cut altogether when first screened on the BBC – apparently to numerous complaints!
Whilst well received at the time, Nicolas Roeg’s film has grown in stature over the years. Sight and Sound listed it as its 127 best film in their decennial critics poll, and it is now well recognised for its place in British horror history. Many modern filmmakers have stated its influence on them – including Danny Boyle, Ben Wheatley ,and the team behind The League of Gentleman.
Whilst not a perfect film – and sometimes slightly dated – the film features stunning performances and is one of the greatest uses of a city on film. Still not convinced? It is so iconic it has its own section in The Guardian…
Many thanks to Whirled Cinema for hosting us and Comrade Jon for organising a fantastic night,
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF FASCISM