MovieChat Forums > Don't Look Now Discussion > film (SPOILERS) film (SPOILERS)

I was posting in another thread how I hadn't read the short novel DON'T LOOK NOW (1973) is based on. Reading the below (from (which I don't even know is a respected source or not) I was surprised it was published in 1970! I always think of the author's works as being so much older than that!

But anyway, here's some plot and character and thematic breakdown of the book from that site, if anyone's interested:



BACKGROUND: When Daphne du Maurier wrote the short story “Don’t Look Now,” sometimes referred to as a novella for its length, she was firmly established as a popular writer. However, as Nina Auerbach notes in British Writers, though du Maurier was an immediate success when she first started publishing in the 1930s, she was also immediately “dismissed by the cultural establishment as too readable to be literary.” Her work was criticized as being mere romantic escapism, but this opinion never seemed to dim du Maurier’s efforts, considering she wrote until her last days.

“Don’t Look Now,” published in 1970, is a tale of the supernatural involving a British couple vacationing in Venice to escape the pain of their young daughter’s recent death. An encounter with two sisters at a cafe, and the blind one’s claim that she can “see” the deceased child sitting with her parents, launches a series of events that ends violently. The story was made into a suspense movie a few years after it was published and has remained one of du Maurier’s best-known tales.


Author Biography

Daphne du Maurier was born in London on May 13, 1907, the daughter of renowned actor Gerald du Maurier and granddaughter of artist and author George du Maurier. The author of seventeen novels and numerous short stories—many of which have been made into movies and television shows—du Maurier was also a playwright, essayist, and respected biographer. Millions of readers have made her one of the most beloved, but critically ignored, authors of the twentieth century.

Du Maurier and her family lived in a comfortable world insulated from hardships. Most of du Maurier’s youth was spent sailing, traveling with her friends, and writing stories, which a well-connected uncle shepherded into publication. Many see her charmed and relatively easy life as one of the reasons why du Maurier’s writing is much more conventional than that of her contemporaries who were busy experimenting with avant-garde techniques such as stream-of-consciousness and who were writing on war and poverty.

In 1931, du Maurier published, to critical acclaim, her first novel, The Loving Spirit, a romantic family tale. The novel so impressed thirty-five-year-old Major Frederick Browning that he sailed a small boat past the du Maurier country home in an effort to meet the young author. Browning and du Maurier married in 1932, and in 1946 du Maurier became Lady Browning when her husband was knighted. She and Browning had three children and a comfortable life, but all was not straightforward in du Maurier’s personal life; she was widely known to have had a number of affairs, both heterosexual and lesbian.

Rebecca, her most famous and well-considered novel, was published in 1938 and received Britain’s National Book Award. In 1940, Rebecca was made into a movie, which won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. Other du Maurier novels and stories have been made into films, including “Don’t Look Now,” originally published in 1970, and “The Birds.”

Du Maurier continued writing nearly to the end of her life. In 1971, a collection of her horror stories, including “The Birds” and “Don’t Look Now,” was published as Don’t Look Now (released in Britain as Not After Midnight). She died in Par, Cornwall, England, on April 19,1989. According to Nina Auerbach in British Writers, the cause of death was “stubborn self-starvation.”



Plot Summary

In Torcello

“Don’t Look Now,” opens with John, a British tourist in a small town outside of Venice, noticing two elderly twin sisters s sitting at a nearby table. He and Laura, his wife, create wild scenarios to describe the sisters and their possible business in Torcello. The couple joke like this for some time, giving John some hope that his wife is getting over a recent traumatic event. Laura decides to follow one of the sisters into the bathroom to see if she is a woman or a cross-dresser. Meanwhile, John thinks about the recent death of their five-year-old daughter, Christine. Her death was a huge blow to Laura, and John hopes that their vacation will ease her pain.

A few minutes later, Laura emerges from the bathroom looking shocked. She tells John that the sister in the bathroom explained that her twin is a blind psychic. She had been staring at John and Laura because she had “seen” Christine sitting between the couple, laughing and happy. “You see, she isn’t dead, she’s still with us,” explains Laura happily. John is not so pleased at this turn of events. “It’s what I’ve been dreading. She’s gone off her head,” he thinks. John is doubtful and worried but, because Laura seems happy, he grudgingly accepts the incident.

Later at a cathedral, Laura is engrossed with the architecture and art. John suddenly sees the twins, much to his dismay, although Laura does not, and the blind sister’s eyes are fixed on him. He feels “an impending sense of doom” and is unable to move, thinking, “This is the end, there is no escape, no future.” He becomes angry and grabs Laura for a walk along a canal.

Back in Venice, Later That Evening

John and Laura, relaxed and back in their Venetian hotel room, make love and get ready for dinner at a restaurant. They take a walk before dinner but get lost in the tangled back streets of the city. Suddenly, John sees from the corner of his eye a small child, in a cloak with a hood covering her head, running away from someone. Laura has already moved up the street and does not see the incident, and he does not share it with her.

They find a restaurant, but just as they sit at a table and order drinks, John sees the twin sisters being seated, too. He is suspicious that either the sisters are following them or Laura told them where they would be eating that night. Much to John’s dismay, Laura sees the women and goes over to speak to them for a long while.

When Laura returns to their table, John is drunk and angry. Laura tells him that the blind sister has had another vision that Christine is unhappy and that John is in danger and must leave Venice as soon as possible. This talk enrages John, and they fight. Laura also tells John that the blind sister believes that he is psychic but doesn’t know it yet.

When they return to their hotel, there is a telegram waiting for them, stating that their son, Johnnie, back in England, is sick and may have to undergo surgery for appendicitis. Laura decides that this means that their son is the one in danger and not John.

The Next Morning

Laura wants to leave immediately for England to be with Johnnie, but John is less concerned and feels that booking a train for the next night should be sufficient. Laura is insistent and manages to secure a seat on a charter flight with a group of British tourists. John must drive by himself to Milan to pick up the train, and he is not happy about it.

After Laura leaves, John takes a ferry to San Marco to pick up his car. He is sure he sees his wife, looking distressed, on a ferry returning to Venice. She is with the twin sisters. John returns to his hotel, but no one has seen or heard from his wife or the sisters. A check with the charter company confirms that the plane left on time with all its seats filled. Although this would seem to indicate that Laura indeed took her reserved seat on the plane, John nevertheless constructs a scenario in which Laura never intended to catch the plane and instead “made an assignation with the sisters.” Or possibly, he thinks, the twin sisters somehow tricked Laura, in her agitated state, and kidnapped her.

John goes to the police station to report Laura’s disappearance. While there, John meets a British couple who tell him about a murderer loose in the city. A policeman listens to John’s story, including his suspicions about the twin sisters’ possible involvement.

John returns to the hotel and places a phone call to the headmaster’s house, whose wife assures him that Johnnie has gone through the surgery well. He is relieved at the good news about his son but shocked when she puts Laura on the phone. He tries to explain to Laura his confusion about her whereabouts.



Later at the hotel, the police show up to take John to the station, where they are holding the twin sisters for questioning. John tries to explain the mix-up to the police and apologizes to the twins. The sighted sister explains to John, “You saw us… and your wife too. But not today. You saw us in the future.

On the way back to his hotel, John sees the frightened little girl in the cloak and hood again, this time with a man in pursuit. He is worried for her, especially now knowing about the murderer. He follows her into a room and bolts the door against the man chasing her. The hood slides away, and the little girl turns out to be a “little thick-set woman dwarf … grinning at him.” John hears police outside the door, but the dwarf throws a knife at him, which sticks in his throat. As John dies, he realizes that his vision of Laura and the sisters on the ferry is the future when his wife returns to Venice to pick up his body.



The Supernatural

The story is, at its core, a tale about seeing and talking with the dead, as well as about psychic visions and premonitions. Laura and John have lost their daughter but meet up with a blind woman who has visions of the dead child and can hear her warnings to her father. John’s death is a result of his denial of supernatural forces at work.

The blind sister has not always been blind, but discovered that losing her sight enabled her to see into another world. She had always studied the occult and similar topics, and the two sisters now keep a diary of supernatural happenings. After John apologizes for implicating the sisters in his wife’s apparent disappearance, they explain that when he saw Laura with them on the boat he was probably experiencing a premonition. He still does not believe in such things, but the sighted sister assures him that this has probably happened to him before, but he chose not to acknowledge it. “So many things happen to us of which we are not aware,” she says. “My sister felt you had psychic understanding.” By the time the story comes to its violent conclusion, John realizes too late that this is true and that the scream and the child/dwarf running the previous day were a warning vision.

Mystery and Confusion

A sense of mystery infuses du Maurier’s story from the opening lines. John starts off by warning Laura that two women across a restaurant are trying to hypnotize him and that she should be careful about simply turning around to look at them. The couple launches into a lighthearted game of guessing and imagining who these women might be: are they jewel thieves or murderers, or are they even women at all, but men dressed in drag? When Laura follows one of the women into the bathroom to see if she is really a he, the one left at the table stares at John but doesn’t acknowledge John’s smiles.

As well, du Maurier reveals only a bit about the sadness that Laura holds, waiting until the story is well on its way before she uncovers the mystery of her daughter’s death. In fact, Christine’s death is mentioned at first by John as the narrator, without many details, and it is only later that the cause of her death is divulged.

The mysteries continue, even after Laura discovers that the women are simply sisters traveling together and that one is blind, which explains her failure to respond to John. The blind sister is purportedly psychic and has seen John and Laura’s dead child sitting between them at the restaurant. This upsets John because he is convinced that something suspicious is brewing with these sisters, and that they must want something from him and Laura. John’s concern deepens when he sees them at a church later and again at dinner that night, where they tell Laura that he is in some kind of danger and should leave Venice immediately. John’s suspicions about the sisters increase when he apparently sees them on a boat with Laura at a time when Laura should be on a plane to England.

More confusion and mystery appear in the story, from when John mistakes a murderous dwarf For a child in a hooded coat to when he can’t figure out where his wife is and to the couple’s becoming lost in the tangled streets of Venice and hearing an unidentifiable scream. Very often, as well, a sense of danger and fear accompanies the mystery and confusion in the story.




Topics for further study

* A couple of times in the story, John and Laura find themselves wandering lost around the streets of Venice, a city known for being difficult to navigate. Find a tourist map of Venice, and locate the churches they visited. See if you can discover where they were when they were lost. Also look at a map of Italy to see how close Padua and Torcello are to Venice.
* Du Maurier does not offer much background information on John and Laura. Consider what you know about the couple, and create biographies for them that include where they were born, what they studied in school, what they were like as children and young adults, and how they met. Also imagine what kind of work John and Laura do at the time of the story and what kind of life they have in England.
* Investigate psychic visions or premonitions. What is the latest scientific research on them? Also, explain whether or not you believe that such phenomena are real and why.
* Learn about meningitis. What are its causes and symptoms, and how is it treated? Does it appear more often in some parts of the world, and are some people more susceptible to it than others?



John and Laura have what seems to be a conventional but generally satisfactory marriage. John obviously loves his wife, but he acts as if she is exceedingly fragile and must be protected when, ironically, he ends up being the one who is in danger. Their relationship is full of denial: they come to Venice to get away from the pain of their daughter’s death, and John is willing to let Laura believe anything so long as she is not depressed. When she first tells him that the blind sister has seen a vision of dead Christine sitting next to them, he panics and doesn’t want to consider what this means, as long as Laura is happy. “He had to play along with her, agree, soothe, do anything to bring back some sense of calm,” he narrates. Most of all he does not want to discuss what has happened. He eventually becomes angry and argues with Laura about the sisters. As well, when he hears a scream and sees a child running in fear, he never tells Laura about it, even though she is just around the corner. He wants to cover it up, fearing that the incident would have “a disastrous effect on her nerves.”

Meanwhile, Laura’s relationship with the sisters is a warm one. They seem to give her what she needs emotionally. She is able to speak with them about Christine, something she has not really been able to do with John, who simply wants her to get over their daughter’s death. Laura expresses the joy that she now feels, knowing that Christine is happy in the afterlife, according to the blind sister. She explains to John, “You know what it’s been like all these weeks, at home and everywhere we’ve been on holiday, though I tried to hide it from you.” Though John tries to connect with Laura, he ultimately fails, and it is up to the sisters to do so. And in the end his inability or unwillingness to listen to women is the cause of his death.





Almost mimicking the story’s visions and premonitions, du Maurier has filled the narrative with moments that point to some future event. She uses foreshadowing to indicate that trouble is coming soon, such as when John sees what he thinks is a small child wearing a hooded jacket fleeing danger through the streets and jumping from boat to boat across the canal. He has an uneasy feeling about what he has just seen but does not express this to Laura.

Barely twenty-four hours later, John sees the same little girl running for her life, and he follows her, calling out that he will protect her. But when he gets into a room with the “little girl,” she ends up being a “little thick-set woman dwarf.” The dwarf stabs John and, as he dies, he sees again his wife and the twin sisters on a boat—something that he saw earlier in the day but did not recognize as a premonition—and understands that he was and is now seeing them in the future as they return to Venice to pick up his body. The boat is moving down the Grand Canal, “not today, not tomorrow, but the day after that, and he knew why they were together and for what purpose they had come.”

In fact, most of the foreshadowing points to John’s death. The story opens with the couple joking that the two women in the restaurant are murderers, traveling around the world, changing their appearance with each stop—not unlike the murderer dwarf who first looks like a child. When John sees his wife on a boat inexplicably sailing back to Venice, only later does he understand that this was a foreshadowing of his own death. And when he visits the police station to report his wife’s mysterious disappearance, he meets with another British couple who mention that there is a murderer loose in Venice. Talking with the police officer later, John mentions the murderer. The officer responds, “We hope to have the murderer under lock and key very soon,” pointing to just a few hours later, when John will mistakenly bolt the door to a room where he is trapped with the murderer and will hear the police just outside the door.

Humor and Sarcasm:

Du Maurier has John and Laura use humor and sarcasm to break the tension of the atmosphere around them, heavy with the memory of their dead daughter. The story opens with the two joking about a pair of sisters sitting at another table in the restaurant. They imagine that the sisters are cross-dressers, which causes Laura to laugh almost hysterically. John has succeeded in distracting her thoughts from their dead child, and “her voice, for the first time since they had come away, took on the old bubbling quality he loved.” He continues thinking about the need for humor and jokes, adding, “if we can pick up the familiar routine of jokes shared at holiday and at home … then everything will fall into place.”

John reacts to the possibility of psychic visions with sarcasm. After seeing the sisters at the church, he suspects them of “touring the world, making everyone they met uncomfortable.” And when Laura tells him that the blind sister believes him to be psychic, he answers, “Fine, my psychic intuition tells me to get out of this restaurant now,” wanting to get as far away from the sisters as possible. After the sighted sister explains to him that the twins can deliver any message from their dead daughter “in the spirit world,” John envisions the sisters “putting on headphones in their bedroom, listening for a coded message from poor Christine.”





Venice is an ancient seaport city in northeastern Italy, famed for its beautiful buildings and art and considered one of the most romantic cities in the world. It is a favorite destination of honeymooners and lovers. The city covers more than one hundred islands separated by 177 canals. The Grand Canal, on which John sees Laura in a ferry, winds through Venice for about two miles. The four hundred bridges in the city are for pedestrians only. For centuries the gondola, a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a single oar, provided most transportation. Today, the gondolas are used almost exclusively by tourists, while motorized boats transport almost all freight and passenger traffic throughout Venice.

Modern Venice has struggled with physical damage from flooding, pollution, and age, as well as the loss of population to other areas. While flooding has been commonplace throughout the history of the city, 1966 saw an especially severe flood. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) coordinated an international effort to renovate and preserve many of the city’s historic structures.


The London of the 1960s, in which John and Laura lived and worked, was a focus for much of the popular culture of the world at that time—Mary Quant’s creation of the mini-skirt and the famous English model Twiggy made the city the focus for Much of the fashion world, while the Beatles and the Rolling Stones helped make England the epicenter of rock and roll during the decade.

Pressure during the 1960s on British lawmakers to address the disparity between women’s and men’s salaries resulted in the Equal Pay Act of 1970, doing away with what were referred to as “men’s rates” and “women’s rates” for the same job. Women’s political power also increased in the 1960s, with 29 women holding seats as Members of Parliament in the House of Commons in 1964—the largest number since women were first allowed to stand for election in 1918.


* 1960s: In 1966, Venice suffers some of the worst floods in its history.
Today: Work continues throughout Venice to keep the city from literally sinking into the water that surrounds it. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has headed an effort to renovate and preserve the damaged historical buildings in the city.
* 1960s: British women make their presence known in the political world when 29 are elected as Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in 1964—the largest number since women were first allowed to stand for election in 1918.
Today: Women’s political power in Great Britain continues to increase substantially. After the 2001 general election, 118 women are Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Betty Boothroyd, speaker of the House of Commons from 1992 through 2000, is now a life peer—one who may sit in the House of Lords and exercise lifelong voting privileges.
*1960s: More than 50 percent of men in England, like John, smoke cigarettes.
Today: The smoking rate for men in England has steadily dropped over the past thirty years, recently leveling off at a rate of just under 30 percent.




Du Maurier’s reputation has been defined by the fact that most critics do not consider her to be a writer of “serious literature.” According to Nina Auerbach in British Writers, “the name Daphne du Maurier was synonymous with atmospheric, feminine romance that was escapist rather than artistic.” While many critics toss du Maurier in with a group of women writers who primarily wrote romances and simple horror stories, Auerbach argues that she may be more closely aligned with writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Isak Dinesen, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter—like these writers, du Maurier “extracts fear from ordinary social transactions.” Auerbach believes that du Maurier has been wrongly categorized as a writer of escapist romances and that she is actually “an author of extraordinary range and frequent brilliance.” However, as Wayne Templeton notes in Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Novelists Between the Wars, a “reassessment of the canon has led in recent years to the ‘discovery’ of several previously neglected figures in British literature,” one of whom is du Maurier.

Richard Kelly, writing in his Daphne du Maurier, celebrates the fact that the author’s work took a traditional road that, he argues, appeals to women readers. Du Maurier wrote “old-fashioned novels with straightforward narratives that appealed to a conventional audience’s love of fantasy, adventure, sexuality, and mystery,” he says. Du Maurier rewarded her readers’ loyalties, in fact, “by embodying their desires and dreams in her novels and short stories.” He believes that “Don’t Look Now,” and her short story “The Birds” and novel Rebecca

“Stand out among her works as landmarks in the development of the modern gothic tale” and establish the “twentieth-century sense of dislocation.” According to Kelly, her writing “set the stage” for hundreds of “imitators” to write lesser stories for the Harlequin Romance series and others.

But even an admirer of du Maurier, such as Kelly, can acknowledge that her stories may be less than perfect. In his article about du Maurier in Twayne’s English Authors Series Online, Kelly acknowledges, “character, atmosphere, language, social commentary—all are of secondary interest to her” and adds that many of her characters are “manipulated by their contrived future.” Du Maurier’s world does not ask much introspection of readers, only that they come along for the ride. Even though Kelly lauds “Don’t Look Now,” he allows that du Maurier “does not develop her characters to the point where we can have any strong feelings of sympathy for them. Instead, we watch with curiosity what happens to them.”

When the collection entitled Don’t Look Now came out in 1971, Margaret Millar reviewed it for the New York Times Book Review. In her article, Millar notes that du Maurier has been “a household word for more than thirty years,” but the reviewer is rather unenthusiastic about the title story. Referring to the mysterious events in the story, Millar writes, “Is Laura really dead? No. Are the sisters dead? No. Is the story dead? A bit.” She argues that du Maurier is least effective when writing in the third person and that Laura and John are “superficial and dull.”

But, ultimately, the readers have spoken, and du Maurier’s work continues to be hugely popular. In 1969, she was made a dame of the British Empire for her literary distinctions, and many of her stories and novels have been made in major motion pictures, including The Birds, directed by no less than Alfred Hitchcock.


Again, all the above posts taken from:

Lots more critical analysis of the original story there, if anyone's interested : )



And in the end his inability or unwillingness to listen to women is the cause of his death.

Sad to learn the story is misandrist guff. Imagine the uproar if du Maurier was a male author and Laura was brutally murdered because of her stubborn refusal to listen to the rational warnings of men.


I saw this once, years ago, and until now never knew Du Maurier wrote it! Or "The Birds," which I assume is what Hitchcock's film was based on.

I'm also surprised she only died in 1989.


I was surprised by the fact she died in the 80s, too! On Netflix or something, there's a 2008 PBS biopic about her life called DAPHNE. It has Janet McTeer in it as the actress Gertrude Lawrence. It seems this author was a bisexual.


I hope it's on Netflix! I know very little about her, and am intrigued enough to watch a biopic about her life.


Aw nuts. It's not on Netflix :(


It looks like fans have made music videos using footage from the film on Youtube, but I don't see the entire thing uploaded : (

Sometimes people will put a film up under a vague name, so it isn't taken down for copyright violation. (I've seen things titled "1947 drama" for example, and it will be a complete well known film.) So maybe try searching Youtube using associated words like Janet McTeer, 2007, du maurier bio, etc. It might be there....?


Ha, I was just on YouTube trying to find it, and all I came up with was the same thing you did. Even clips from the actual film would have been something. I searched Daphne BBC.

I'll try your other suggestions, while crossing whatever I can cross, and throwing some salt over one shoulder.

reply's not on amazon streaming either. But it looks like you can buy a used DVD for under $3.00, plus postage.

Call the libraries in your area, too. Some of them have big DVD collections, and it is a literary subject matter...? And some of them have arrangements where they can get you things from other libraries.


Damn. Well thanks for looking. I came up empty-handed doing all the searches I could think of on YouTube.

I'm not invested enough to buy it, but the library system here is pretty good and may have it. Good suggestion!