Venice and “Don’t Look Now” Church
You already know about this city, but let’s recap. Venice is an archipelago of more than 100 islands just off the east coast of northern Italy. These islands are outlined by canals and connected, where they can be, by foot bridges and, where they can’t, by boats. Basically, it looks like a flooded city. Relevantly, the city’s motto is “Si suppone di guardare in questo modo.” Roughly translated, that’s “It’s supposed to look this way.”
And then they became Disneyland.
At least, that’s what it felt like as we worked our non-DeLorean through the long lines of traffic to get to the garages where you leave your car like surrendering liquids at an airport. From that point everybody’s on foot, when you’re not on a boat, and hopefully with a map that tells you where the Haunted Mansion and Sleeping Beauty’s castle are. Instead of mouse-ear hats, almost every shop carries ornate masks famous from their use during the annual Carnival of Venice.
After all, even without the labyrinthine alleyways and arched foot bridges and water taxis that make the Venice experience so unique, it’s still home to a wide range of world-class sites, from the architectural wonders that line the Piazza San Marco to the extravagant mansions along the Grand Canal.
But there’s a corollary in all that. Despite the crowds, there are wonders to see, but despite the wonders to see, there are crowds. And the only way to get out of them? Go find something out of the way that few people would waste time on during a more than likely once-in-a-life Venice experience.
In the movie, which is based on short story by Daphne Du Maurier, Sutherland and Christie play a husband and wife who have recently lost their daughter in a drowning accident somewhere in England and have taken up residence in Venice while Sutherland’s character oversees the restoration of an old church there. Meanwhile, a serial killer is running around the canals, a short red-coated apparition reminiscent of their daughter keeps appearing briefly around alleyway twists and across canals, and a psychic blind woman keeps getting all otherworldy on them.
The movie was filmed on location during the winter, so Don’t Look Now offers us a Venice that is empty, cold, and lifeless. The individual alleyways that give the city some of its charm seem more like mausoleum avenues, the holy work of restoring a church more like a punishment of the damned, and the dank-looking canal water seems far more terrifying than the serial killer victims it hides.
Above the entrance to the church is the statue nook where Sutherland’s character almost falls (his second almost-fall at the church in the movie). Despite the fact that it seemed out-of-itinerary range, a paper sign on the door prohibited photos inside, which tells me there are either a lot of fans of obscures churches or a lot of Donald Sutherland fans.
After seeing the Don’t Look Now church, we made our way back to the parking garage by a different route than the one that got us there. On the way, we saw a second Venice, far removed from the tourist attraction we had so far experienced, a Venice where the locals live. There were children in school playgrounds and laundry hanging from window clotheslines. Had we stayed the night in the city, I have the feeling we’d have experienced a third Venice, Venice closer to the one featured in Don’t Look Now.
I wonder what the market demand is for child-sized red raincoats there.