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. In it some of the key symbols and imagery used throughout the film are set up. This imagery includes: the colour red, broken glass and the crescent moon. These all carry symbolic undertones. There are also some very interesting editing techniques, such as, the use of discontinuity, match-on-action and graphic match. The diegetic and non-diegetic sound in the film are used meticulously to add depth to the action. All of these elements are added together to make the opening scene a virtuoso exercise in montage editing. The colour red is first seen on the character Christine Baxter (Sharon Williams) in the form of her raincoat. Next we see it in on the ball that she plays with. She then tosses the ball into the water as to foreshadow her own drowning which takes place shortly after. There is also a red-hooded figure in a church on a slide that Christine’s father John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) is examining. When John spills his drink on the slide with the red figure, a red stain resembling blood streams out from the figures head and across the slide into the form of a crescent moon. The blood-like liquid protruding from the figure foreshadows that at the end of the film the hooded figure will slash John’s throat and he will die form blood-loss. Throughout the rest of the film red acts as a reminder of Christine’s death and a symbol of death and blood in general. The image on the slide is furthermore interesting because the blood, in the form of a crescent, is what triggers his supernatural premonition that something terrible is happening. The figure of the crescent moon reoccurs throughout the film as a symbol of the supernatural. The first, but very subtle, reference to it is in Laura Baxter’s (Julie Christies) answer to Christine’s question: “If the earth is round, why are frozen ponds flat?” Laura discovers that, “Lake Ontario is curved by three degrees on either side,” to which John replies, “Nothing is what it seems”. This image of a curved line sets up the theme throughout the film of the
supernatural. But, ironically – judging from what John has said– he refuses to accept the possibility of the supernatural. This notion of nothing being what it seems is all the more important because it is what leads to John’s death. He can’t help but think that the red-hooded figure might be his daughter, but just when he gets close enough to find out, it turns out she is a creepy old dwarf lady who then slashes his throat and kills him. The crescent moon is seen more explicitly later as a broach on the blind telepathic woman - who foresees the doom of John and can see Christine’s ghost. It also appears in a mosaic that John is reconstructing high atop some scaffolding. This is just before he falls from the scaffolding and nearly plummets to his death, which the telepathic blind woman with the crescent broach said would happen. The crescent figure is most obviously used in the scene where John pulls Christine’s lifeless body out of the water and holds her in his arms causing her to resemble the form of the crescent. This is further exemplified when the scene dissolves from this image to a close-up of the blood red crescent shaped stain on the slide of the red figure in the church.
Broken glass makes its first appearance when Johnny Baxter (Nicholas Salter) on his bike runs over some glass, shatters it and then falls down. Just as this happens, there is a quick cut to a close up of John looking up from his desk as if he heard it. But this would have been impossible because he is inside the house and the boy is on the other side of the yard. The reason he acknowledges it is, of course, because of his psychic abilities. The broken glass symbolizes the shattering of the lives and psyches of the whole family. Johnny falling off his bike also acts as a foreshadowing element emphasizing the downfall of the family. After Johnny runs over the glass, he picks the broken bits out of the tire, but accidentally cuts himself; further foreshadowing that there will be more blood and death to come. He then nervously twiddles the broken glass and nurses his cut finger all the while he is watching his dad vainly attempting to resuscitate Christine. The use of broken glass as a symbol
of shattered psyches and falling down as the downfall of the family are furthered later on in the film. Most specifically when Julie collapses over a table in Venice and all the glass falls in slow motion crashing to the floor along with her, which symbolizes the parent’s downfall and shattered psyches. There are some interesting editing techniques in the first scene. In order to hint at Christine’s drowning there is a shot of her throwing her red ball toward the pond. Just as this is happening there is a quick cut to John spilling a glass, saying, “Oh, shit”, then another quick cut back to the ball actually landing in the water. It is a kind-of match on action cut and it suggests, through the image of the spilling of the drink, that something is going to happen that is out of the parent’s hands. The suggestion of what is going to happen (i.e. Christine’s drowning) is pointed to when her ball lands in the water. Seeing as the ball is red, which acts as a reminder and representation of Christine throughout the whole film, it can be said that the ball landing in the water is a foreshadowing of her death. Another interesting edit is a very telling graphic match. The first shot is a close up of the slide with the red hooded figure and the crescent shaped stream of red. The next is a medium tracking shot of the red-jacketed Christine’s reflection in the pond as she runs along the shore. Since it is a reflection, Christine is now upside down and skewed, suggesting that the main character’s lives will be flipped upside down. It also sets up the theme of duality, which plays a major role throughout the film. For example there are two blind sisters, two red-hooded figures and two parents, and none of them are what they seem. The most blatant, but effective use of editing is in the first scene when John pulls Christine’s body out of the water. To create emotional depth and emphasis the sequence is played in slow motion and uses discontinuous cuts to emphasize the arduousness of John’s realization that his daughter has drowned. As he is pulling her out of the water, there are cuts just fragments of seconds long back in time. This discontinuous editing along with the slow motion lets the viewer feel the impact of the death more explicitly and
emotionally, which without the use of montage would not have had such a substantial effect. Diegetic and non-diegetic sound are used very effectively in the first scene. The shots of Christine and Johnny playing in the yard are accompanied with non-diegetic piano music. It is fairly simple music, and is a little out of time making sound as though it might be a child playing at a piano practice. This piano music is a representation of innocence. Inside the house, there is the homey crackle of the fire and John’s humming, giving it a normal feel. But both peaceful audial settings are disrupted by the piercing sound of glass. In the yard, Johhny runs over a plate of glass and shatters it, and inside Johnn knocks over a glass very loudly onto the slide he’s examining. From here, there is no more innocent piano music. This is because Christine has drowned, thus summoning the end of innocence for the family. From here the only nondiagenic music in the sequence is the deep ominous melancholy cello music. It is played when the red-crescent stain on the slide expands, and, when John pulls Christine’s lifeless body out of the water. The cello music acts as the flipside of the innocent piano music and signifies the grief and subsequent doom of the family. The first scene sets up the major themes and symbols of the entire film very well. The filmmakers employ these devices through their effective use of montage editing. By emphasizing the colour red in various places they set up a symbol for death, blood and the cruel reminder of the dead Christine. They set up the image of the crescent moon and give it a mysteries supernatural undertone, even though it’s not made explicit as it is in the rest of the film, the filmmakers do an intriguing job of hinting at this image and its undertones. Broken glass is also set up in the first scene to be a symbol of shattered psyches. The use of match-on-action cuts, graphic matches and discontinuity are employed wonderfully to foreshadow happenings later on, to set up themes and to emphasis emotional depth, all of which could not have been achieved were the scene shot in continuous real-time. Diegetic and non-diegetic sound
are used very well to evoke feelings that would not have been as explicit if the music and emphasis on sound were not there. This scene and the entire film are the sum of a various multiplicity of editing techniques and symbols, which are intertwined and blended together in a significant manner, thereby giving more meaning and depth to the whole film.
Montage in Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now By Brayden Benham
Film Studies 1300 Prof: Glen Walton Nov/05/08
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