A Roeg’s Guide to Venice

This is an article on the locations used in the horror film Don’t Look Now. There are MAJOR plot spoilers from the start, with an assumption the reader has seen the movie. If you haven’t this will ruin it for you so stop now. It was updated with new material in April 2021.

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I thought it had ended in April 2015 when I met Heather in the anteroom of the Tribuna in the Palazzo Grimani, but five years later I was still adding, editing, detecting, being drawn back to the city.

She was dressed from head to toe in scarlet. Standing in the heart of the lair of the red coated dwarf I was astounded by the coincidence, and hearing her speak to her companion (she sounded Canadian, like Donald Sutherland) I had to ask them both if they had ever seen a film called Don’t Look Now.

He was English (like Julie Christie) and had watched it several times and liked it, and thankfully didn’t think I was a crazy person with my seemingly random question. Heather was aware of it but hadn’t seen it as she didn’t enjoy scary movies. Heather’s friend (whose name I never learned) was amazed when I told him we were in the location for the climax of the picture and he told me just a few days before he had spotted a possible prototype for the dwarf in Giotto’s celebrated fresco cycle in Padova (a place I had yet to visit). Above our heads soared an ancient sculpture of Ganymede snatched by the randy eagle and in an another room in the palace just a few feet away a snarling, distorted face carved on a wall anticipated Adelina Poerio’s (the actor who played the murderous dwarf*). Morning light reflected from a canal and rippled across it’s cross-eyed features. Just outside on the Parrocchia Santa Maria Formosa I had spotted a similar grotesque head.

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Back in 2006 a combination of things happened, I acquired a DVD of the movie Don’t Look Now, had recently bought a book on Venetian architecture and had a dull April Sunday on my hands. I had known the film for years and viewing it yet again I became intrigued by how the director Nicholas Roeg used the city of Venezia. Another factor was now added, Google Earth was just being perfected. Searching the location of the church Sutherland’s character John was restoring I was curious to see where the park was that Julie Christie as Laura wandered off to in the following sequence with her two new companions, the blind medium and her sister.

After much confused online flying around I realised the only possible place it could be was right across the other side of the island. In the space of one cut Laura and the sisters leap some two and half miles away. Roeg was using geography in the same way he bent time on the editing desk, splicing impossible blocks of frames to create new associations, meanings and emotional states.

I began to catalogue each exterior and trying to map them using freeze frames, the book (The Architectural History of Venice by Deborah Howard) and Google Earth. I realised however that the project needed boots on the ground, I’d have to return to this city to look for myself. I had been just once before and here was a good excuse to go back (as though one was needed). Indeed since then I have returned several times and mapped out the following Don’t Look Now trail you can follow on the map at the bottom of the page.

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1. Bauer Hotel Bar Canal Terrace
We never see the building itself, only a balcony and the foundation wall, as John Baxter claims it’s a church he’s restoring. Instead, he is in and on the Bar Canal Terrace of the Bauer Hotel in the San Marco district, and is right opposite one of the most magnificent buildings in Venice, Santa Maria della Salute (begun in 1631) at the mouth of the Canal Grande. This is glimpsed again later when John “sees” Laura from a vaporetto  dressed in widow’s clothes in the company of the two English sisters. La Salute too was undergoing restoration when I was there in 2007 and the dome was submerged in scaffolding. For years I had incorrectly thought this was next door at the the Ca ‘Giustinian which  used to be the Grande Albergo l’Europa, and it was from one of it’s balconies Mary Ann Cross’s husband John, on their honeymoon, flung himself into the Canal. Mary Ann was better known by her pen name, George Eliot. I’m not sure if the author of the stunning novel The Mill on the Floss, with it’s tragic portents of death by drowning, was on Roeg’s mind or not on choosing this spot (John Cross was fished out alive by a gondlolier called Corradini), but the shot does announce “we are in Venice!” Thanks though to Elena who has her own Livejournal Don’t Look Now website (see comments below) I now know this is indeed the Bauer. We briefly glimpse the sheild of the statue on the terrace on the right of the frame at the start of the shot, and in the frame grab here those egg shaped finials on the balustrade are a give away too. We’ll return to the intertior of the Bauer later.

2. Ristorante Roma

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The restaurant where the Baxters meet the English sisters in the Cannerigio district. It is right next to the train station, so if you arrive in Venice this way it’s easy to bag your first Don’t Look Now locations by wandering onto the bridge, the Ponte degli Scalzi and peering at the view. You’ll see the restaurant, the route the river ambulance took following Laura’s collapse, and behind you is the green dome of San Simeon Piccolo (begun in 1718). This was also being restored when I was there in 2007, and was covered by a vast hoarding advertising Armani tat.

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The dome of Santi di Geremia e Lucia can be seen in front of you, and is glimpsed again later in the background when Laura arrives in Venice after her emergency trip to England. Today it is impossible to match up the interiors of Ristorante Roma, it is now a very modern looking pizzeria.

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Christie and Roeg in the Ristorante Roma

In November 2007, this entire part of the canal was closed off for the winter. I had to nip over a fence to get a picture of the view of the bridge Roeg shot, but there is so much more waterside street furniture now it was difficult to get right. While trying to match the shot with my camera from the bridge itself I noticed that Roeg has not filmed the view of the Canal Grande from the centre of the crossing. He has stayed firmly on the Eastern bank, fitting in with one of my theories about his symbolic use of the city.

3. Ponte Minich

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Leaving the hospital, in a maze of little canals and bridges, the Baxter’s taxi is stalled by a police investigation, the first hint of the further tragedies to come. Inspector Longhi and John catch their first glimpses of each other. Behind John is the Ponte Minich.

4. Ponte dei Conzafelzi

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The little bridge here which the taxi goes under is the Ponte dei Conzafelzi. Both bridges are on the Fondamenta dei Felzi. It’s from this bridge that Roeg has filmed the view of the split canals.

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I blundered into this location entirely by accident when I got totally lost looking for somewhere else, and was in such a great mood when I realized where I was. It has become one of my favorite views of the city and I always come back here when I visit.

5. San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti
Floating down a canal Laura suddenly wants to go into a church they pass. At first I thought this was San Stae where John’s funeral takes place at the end of the movie. However Roeg has gone to the trouble of instead taking us to Fondamenta Mendicanti, in the opposite direction of the previous shot for this pan across San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti, a church never to be glimpsed again. Designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, it is near identical to San Stae’s facade. Outside it is docked a water hearse.

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Yet another of Roeg’s very clever slights of hand. John insists it’s “closed”. As the name “Mendicanti” would suggest, the city’s main hospital is in this district, where presumably the prior interior shots of Laura watching the happy children in a ward were filmed (note the boy playing with a red and white striped ball).

6. Sante Giovanni e Paolo
Instead, Laura lights candles to the memory of their dead daughter in the vast Gothic interior of Sante Giovanni e Paolo, begun in 1333. John spots the English sisters again, and tells Laura “I don’t like this church at all.” (Dialogue apparently improvised at the location when Roeg overheard Sutherland say this to Julie Christie.) It’s also in the Castello district, just a couple of canals away from the Ponte dei Conzafelzi.

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As a sermon begins the Baxter’s flee the church
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7. San Nicolo dei Mendicoli
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The church John is restoring is a rare Veneto-Byzantine survivor, begun in it’s present state in the 12th century, and was being restored “for real” at the time of shooting in early 1973. When I was there one wing was again being prepared for some minor work. It is by tradition the oldest church in Venice and both interior and exterior scenes were shot here.

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In her 1960 book Venice, Jan Morris wrote “out towards the docks is the weird, shadowy, barbaric, gleaming, candle-lit church called San Nicolo di Mendicoli.”

It was far too dark for me to photograph inside with the celluloid film stock I was using back in 2007. There are no mosaics there, like one we see John working on. Instead just below the roof are a series of mannerist paintings of the life of Christ. In the movie these are all covered by white, curtain-like sheets. The ancient looking columns and capitals  inside are the only obvious Byzantine remaining features. In the Dorsoduro district, off any tourist trails and surrounded by industrial buildings with a huge college of architecture next to it.

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In February 2019 I went back hoping to shoot inside the church only to discover that, at the moment, it has very restricted opening hours, only once a day for 4pm mass weekdays, and for a bit longer on Sundays (and I wasn’t in Italy that Sunday). Last time I was here this area was pretty deserted. This time it was bustling with hundreds of students  and all the cafes were full. I was intregued by Calle Nova de le Terese which can be glimpsed behind Massimo Serato, who played the creepy Bishop Barbariggo. It’s still an arena of paint and posters just as it was when Roeg and his crew were here.

8. Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth

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The Baxter’s fictitious “Europa” hotel was actually two different locations in the Castello and San Marco districts (an echo of the old Grande Albergo l’Europa in location 1 above?). The lobby and exteriors were shot at the Gabrielli Sandwirth (now just the Gabrielli). The Campanelli di San Marco can be seen in the background. Not as old as it looks, the original collapsed dramatically in 1902. Incredibly, no one was killed, and it was rebuilt exactly like the original (completed in 1912).

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9. Hotel Bauer

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The famous bed
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Christie, Sutherland and Roeg in the Bauer

The Baxter’s hotel room interiors were all shot in the Bauer, very near Piazza San Marco. It has a mid twentieth century facade, somewhat at odds with the stunning Baroque church of San Moise it shares a piazza with. Here, possibly the most famous sex scene ever filmed was shot, and of course I always wondered in which room exactly. Stuck in lockdown since the end of March 2020 has given me some time to have a peek. Not expecting it to look the same after all these decades I was surprised to quickly find a candidate or two on the Bauer’s website and social media feeds.

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San Moise, Bauer Hotel on the right.

Beyond midshots of the bed and the bathroom we see very little of the room the Baxter’s occupy which is kept in constant subdued, artificial lighting. The real revelation was when I finally pinned down the possible candidate to the grandest of the rooms in the Royal Suite, the most expensive part of the Bauer available for rent today.

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The ballroom of the Royal Suite, where the famous sex scene was filmed. The bed was placed roughly where this photograph was taken from, and you can just see the doorway to the bathroom at the edge of the right of the picture. I didn’t shoot this, unfortunately, I took it from Google images. To stay here would have cost you around four to five thousand pounds per night before the plague hit in March 2020. As much is made in the film of hotels closing for the winter, perhaps this was the case while the production was located here back in 1973 and filming there was relativly easy, especially with two such famous Hollywood stars involved?

And yet in Don’t Look Now Roeg has gone out of his way to disguise the luxury of the space. He makes nothing of it’s obvious assets, cluttering it up with papers, books and magazines, keeping the shutters firmly closed on the views outside, shoving the bed (taken from the near identical room next door, see black and white photo below) up against the wall in the corner, not including any of the wall paintings, Murano glass chandeliers and rarely using a wide angle lens (almost a constant else where) or natural light.

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You can clearly see the rococo stucco work, fireplace, (closed) doorway and ornate mirror here. A mirror is also visible behind Roeg in the black and white picture above. The ornate floor too is briefly glimpsed, though it is mostly covered with carpets.
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The other end of the room, where the bed was placed with a couple of small tables and a writing bureau, and by the far winow, John’s desk and sketches. Photo from the Bauer website.
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You can see the mirrors, sconces and stucco are all still the same.
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Checking out time.
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The Royal Suite from the Grand Canal. The rooom the Baxter’s occupied was the one with the balcony with the five ornate ogee arched windows on the middle floor, right, with furniture taken from the room with the three windows on the middle floor, left. See picture below (photo from Instagram).
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The room next door in the Royal Suite, circa 1950. The bed, carpets and writing bureau were, I think, dragged next door (on the left of the picture) for set decoration (photo from Instagram). Searching a booking website gallery today the bowed writing bureau is still in there, though now on the other side of the room.

And as if further proof were needed, having looked at almost every photo of the hotel on the internet over the last couple of days, this morning I read on another web site a quote from Francesca Bortolotto Possati, who ownes the hotel today, together with a picture of the same room: “This is the Bauer’s Royal Suite. I spent my wedding night here by pure chance, because our flight was canceled. It was very emotional. The room is also featured in the horror thriller Don’t Look Now, with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, in which Venice is both the setting and a character.”

So while Roeg has gone out of his way to hide the fact that the couple are staying in such stunning comfort, down to the cheap, crappy, plastic alarm clock he gives them, John’s expensive taste is revealed when he cracks open a bedside bottle of whisky while waiting for Laura to finish her makeup. It’s a 1954 Macallan finished in Sherry wood, which would cost you about £20,000 pounds these days, if you could find one.** Also on his table, behind a photo of his chidren (one dead, one alive) is a copy of a play in German by Rolf Hochhuth, Der Stellvertreter (usually translated as The Deputy). Is this to show John is multilingual (he struggles with his Italian now and then, when it suits him) or does the story (subtitled A Christian Tragedy) of Pope Pius XII ‘s failure to speak out against the Holocaust reflect upon his choice to work for the Catholic church? Roeg only knows.

10. Ponte del Remedio
Following this, the for once happy couple go out on the town and Laura, crossing a bridge admits she doesn’t “mind being lost in Venice.” There are many bridges in the city, The Bridge of Straw, The Bridge of the Honest Woman, The Bridge of Fists, The Bridge of Courtesy, even the Bridge of Tits, and this one, on Calle Remedio, is called Ponte de Remedio. filmed from Fondamenta de L’anzolo, a short stroll to the north east of San Marco.

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I finally managed to photograph it, and the following few locations on the morning of 6th March 2020, just a few days before the plague hit, and Italy was put into lockdown, and then everywhere else in Europe. Incidently, it would be impossible to be lost in Venice on this, of all bridges, as to your right (walking in the direction of the Baxter’s) you can see one of the most famous sights of the city, the Bridge of Sighs just three birdges away. Sigh!

11. Sotoportego Lucatella
They stumble down a dank tunnel and a white rat in the water scares Laura off, but John is convinced he knows the place, tapping a distinctive piece of white stonework.

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Eagle eyed Ingo tipped me off about this passageway (see “comments” after the post) while searching the following location on Google Streetview, so thanks again! This part of the city was affected by flooding that moring, as you can see here that white rat would have no trouble swimming out now and I couldn’t quite reach the white stone to rap on it.

12. Ponte Storto
Laura calls on John from a bridge she rather unhelpfully calls the “Pont of Giretto”.

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From the local dialect this would literally translate as “Walking Bridge”, and there is no structure called that in Venezia. This location bugged me for years as what happens next is one of the most important moments in the movie, the first glimpse of the the red coated dwarf. And one night in February 2019 after looking at hundreds of pictures of Venetian bridges I finally found where this sequence was shot. The bridge is one of six called Ponte Storto, meaning “crooked” or “distorted” bridge. This particular Crooked Bridge is off Calle Castagna, and the canal is called Rio di San Zanirovo.

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13. Calle Querini

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The reverse shot shows John at the corner of Calle Querini. He then hears a shout and a commotion to his right. The camera whip pans to…

14. Fondamenta Remedio

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I waited for ages hoping someone wearing something red would walk by.

Fondamenta Remedio, which joins on directly to the Calle Remedio and the previous bridge. For once, real geography is being followed, though in the dark.

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The view from Fondamenta Remedio back up Calle Remedio to Calle Querini
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Fondamenta Remedio

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15. Ruga Giuffa
The sequence ends here, staying with “real world” geography. The couple walk up Calle Castagna from the Ponte Storto which opens out onto Ruga Giuffa (which leads directly to Palazzo Grimani). Thank you once again to Elena (see comments below) for solving this one, which bugged me for years!

16. Giardini Pubblici
At San Nicolo Laura again spots the English sisters, and they wander off to a park to chat. The park is two and a half miles away at the opposite end of the city, in gardens which have hosted the Biennale festival since the 19th century. The “hag” statue we see in the film is of Invidia, one of the seven deadly sins, Envy. It’s in a shocking state now and is missing an arm and a leg.

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The wonderful lion statue was even worse on my first visit. Behind the former Soviet Union Pavilion it was fenced off and almost invisible, screened by a forest of rhododendron bushes and in desperate need of restoration. Fortunately the vegetation has now been hacked back and the beast is out of it’s jungle. Last time I was here I started re-reading the novel Dune and fed crumbs of panini to countless, cheeping enthusiastic sparrows.

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In her book Venice, in a chapter on the city’s beasts, Jan Morris wrote “The silliest lion stands in the Public Gardens, removed there from the facade of the Accadmia: Minerva is riding this footling beast side-saddle, and on her helmet is perched another anatomical curiosity – an owl with knees.”

17. Viale Trento
The very next scene was also shot in this same park, just a few garden plots away, starting on the Largo Marinai d’ Italia, it then pans to the gate at Rio Tera San Isepo,

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18. Rio Tera San Isepo

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Right gate, wrong angle

with John angrily walking off through Campo San Isepo.

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19. Campiello Mosca

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Laura goes to visit the English sisters at their first hotel, situated at the end of Campiello Mosca in San Polo. The “Franco Bar” John gets drunk in is now (as of 2019) Ristorante Pizzeria Dolfin, and very nice it is too. When I was there last in March 2020 it was very quiet, and I asked the guy who seemed to be the owner if he had heard of Don’t Look Now, and I showed him some pictures on my phone. He hadn’t and seemed quite thrilled at the idea that part of a movie had been shot in his place, and at one point later the chef popped out of the kitchen to have a quick look at me. Sadly they would have been forced to shut just a few days later.

Roeg shoots the scene quite deceptively, making it look like a narrow alley. Instead it partly opens out to a spacious piazza and lacks the sense of claustrophobia the director manages to invest it with. The Franco Bar windows were adorned with miniature bottles of J&B Scotch, and that brand was a staple of often blatant product placement in seemingly every horror and giallo movie made in Italy in the 1970’s, though in Roeg’s film their lables have been chastely turned away from the camera, no doubt in deference to that Macallan back at the albergo. Also note that Chistmas staple Panettone is still in the January 1973 window. Following the séance (and where was that filmed?) John and Laura wander down the Calle Molin, which you’ll find if you follow in their footsteps is actually a dead end!

20. Riva Schiavoni

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After hearing about an accident involving her son, Laura decides to fly back to England right away. She gets the hotel barge to the airport, which leaves next to the vaperatto jetty outside the Londra Hotel. It’s the last time she’ll see her husband alive. The hotel, having boosted itself a notch,  is now called the Londra Palace and the jetty has been renamed San Zaccaria. When I was there one day back in 2016 hundreds of Chinese tourists were gathered here, a kind of Marco Polo in reverse.

21. Piazzetta San Marco
Having said goodbye to Laura, John walks through the south end of the nearby Piazzetta San Marco. Behind him can be seen the campanella of Palladio’s masterpiece, San Giorgio Maggiore. Yet again John the sceptical atheist is juxtaposed with a church. This is the film’s one and only out and out, “typical tourist” shot, something Roeg avoids in the rest of the movie.

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It puzzled me for years why he did it until, reading Sheila Hale’s biography of Titian it mentioned that the two pillars in the background, the granite columns holding the statues of the winged lion and St Theodor and his crocodile, were once the main execution centre. Criminals decapitated here were then quartered and their remains hung and exhibited on the columns. Apparently superstitious Venetians to this day avoid walking between them, and here John is caught spatially between them as he walks “into” the camera. Perhaps Roeg was using this as the first Italian instance where John Baxter’s fate is sealed, foretold and apparent to see if only we can read the symbols (the first occurs in England with the glass photographic slide). I found the story confirmed by Jan Morris in her book Venice, relating the fate of Dodge Faliero. He made several blunders when he arrived to take up his post and “he also made the foolish mistake, when at last he stepped ashore at the Piazzetta, of walking between the two columns on the Molo, than which, as any fish-wife knew, nothing was more certain than to bring a man bad luck.” He was executed eight months later.

22. Calle Rielo Dorsoduro
After surviving the accident with the scaffolding, the Bishop and John take a stroll from San Nicolo to the Calle Rielo, another instance of rare moments where cinematic space matches geographic reality.

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La Chiesa di Santa Teresa with its distinctive doorway can be seen on the left bank (the large white building) and at at Inspector Longhi’s suggestion John returns to this location looking for the English sisters.

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The pair walk down Calle Rielo Dorsoduro

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23. Corte Magiore
and then John and the Bishop witness a murder victim being fished from a canal.

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The building on the right is part of a large and unlovely complex of 19th century docks. On the left background can be seen the 17th century church of Angelo Raffaele. Almost in the centre background is the 16th century tower of San Sebastiano, which not only houses a cycle of paintings by Veronese, but also his tomb. In 2019 it was very firmly in the middle of a massive and deafening restoration project. The little bridge is on a street called Corte Magiore.

24. Ponte del Miracoli
After seeing the body dragged from the canal, John crosses the small bridge next to Santa Maria dei Miracoli, more than a mile away from the previous scene. This church is a 15th century masterpiece desperately in need of restoration in 1973. It wasn’t saved from ruin until 1998, following a ten year project.

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For once it is clearly signposted so we know where we are, and as the church contains a statue which, according to legend, miraculously saved a person from downing and another from a stabbing, the two forms of death bookending the film, I assumed it held this significance for Roeg, however…

25. Harry’s Bar
after leaping off a vaperetto at the San Marco stop by Harry’s Bar John rushes back to his hotel after “seeing” Laura with the sisters on the Grand Canal...

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26. Calle Largo Widmann
and is suddenly (impossibly) here, heading in the wrong direction towards Miracoli just a few footsteps away (filmed from the Ponte Del Piovan O Del Volto). The little bridge seen here joins on to the 17th century Palazzo Widmann, designed by Baldassare Longhena.

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Watching the Orson Welles version of Othello again in 2015 I noticed that both these locations were used in the same order using the same camera positions by Welles. It seems Roeg is possibly paying homage to a film maker he will quote again in Eureka?

27. Calle de Castelforte San Rocco
At the back of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. A puzzled John tries to find the English sister’s hotel again. He enters a little piazza which is a crossing point for several canals,  finds a “drowned” plastic doll and gets a bad feeling. He also sees the Ponte Vinati from here.

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The Calle de Castelforte San Rocco is still a very quiet, nervous pigeon haunted place today. John hears a Polanskiesque piano playing scales on his visit. When I was there on my first visit, a caged canary was singing away brightly. San Rocco is one of Venice’s biggest tourist attractions, yet pop round here and (usually) the city feels utterly deserted.

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Roeg captures this unsettling aspect of Venetian atmosphere perfectly time and again, especially here and in the first murder scene at Calle Quirini.

28. Ponte Della Scuola

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He is later followed to this square again by a policeman. Walking round the arcade at the back of San Rocco, he sees his “daughter” for the second time from the Ponte Della Scuola lurking in a rather dark and spooky alley called Sotoportego Calle del Cafetier.

29. Sotoportego Calle del Cafetier

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30. Ponte Vinanti

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John is followed by the policeman through a number of locations, including this one just inside San Polo. The closed off space on the right of the picture is presently occupied by a kebab shop.

31. La Fenice et des Artistes
The second hotel the Sisters move to is in San Marco, to the left of this shot (the cannon ball and gun encrusted wall in this shot is a different hotel).

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La Fenice et des Artistes still has a plant pot sitting on exactly the same spot and in 2016 I stayed here for a couple of nights. To confuse things in the film the actors never go in or out of the hotel by the front door, but by a side entrance usually kept locked these days.

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32. Calle Fenice

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When John walks Heather, the blind sister played by Hilary Mason back to her hotel, they are seen here on what Google maps will tell you is Calle Fenice, but the sign on the wall actually says Fondamenta S. Cristoforo. Venice is kinda infuriating that way. Again, a location I have not visited yet (or at least I wasn’t aware of it if I had blundered down here), and again a rare moment when real space, if not time, is followed. This is where she says the wonderful line “Milton loved this city. Did you know that?”

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The dwarf appears outside the hotel
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In the waiting room of La Fenice et des Artistes are photos of many famous stars of opera and cinema who have stayed there over the years, but none at all relating to Don’t Look Now. On the top floor where I was staying however was another Roegian coincidence. All the doors were decorated with reproductions of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, the painting around which whirls the doomed Viennese romance in Roeg’s astounding Bad Timing. Venice/Vienna merged.

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33. Rio di San Severo

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Leaving La Fenice et des Artistes, at the Rio di San Severo John spots the dwarf again across the canal, in the doorway of Calle Arco

34. Calle Arco

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Calle Arco

35. Palazzo Grimani
Crossing the bridge, the Ponte Novo, and chasing who he thinks may be his dead daughter up the canal by boat jumping, John Baxter is lead to the nearby Palazzo Grimani and one of cinema’s greatest and most tragic endings. The Palazzo was derelict for decades until the late 1990’s, and during my 2007 trip it was frustratingly still off limits, undergoing a period of restoration lasting seemingly forever. I finally saw inside it in 2015 when I met Heather and her friend.

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The “Darlings” gate in 2007
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As can be seen by the distance between the Sister’s second hotel and the Palazzo in the map at the bottom of this page, some artistic license has again been used by Roeg.

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And this is as far as we can accompany John and the killer. The staircase he runs up and the room where he meets his fate are still closed to visitors.

36. Campo San Stae

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John’s funeral takes place at San Stae in Santa Croce. San Stae’s facade was designed in 1709 by Domenico Rossi, taking his inspiration from San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti. Glimpsed just for a few seconds earlier in the movie, San Lazzaro was created in 1672 by Guiseppe Sardi who was Rossi’s uncle. On my 2007 visit, the building in the background, like seemingly everywhere else I went, was undergoing restoration and was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin.

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And that “symbolic use of the city” I mentioned earlier? Pondering the map of La Serenissima, it suddenly struck me that perhaps the choice of locations are imparting some kind of message all of their own, a hidden psycho-geography.

If we look at the first two Italian locations they certainly appear significant. The Venetian section opens with John working on a building at the Southern end of the Grand Canal, right at it’s mouth and on it’s Eastern bank. In some way using this location confuses things, as John never works here again, his job is restoring San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, miles away (though it does of course say “we’re in Venice!” quite unambiguously).

The very next scene takes place at the Ristorante Roma, which is at the Northern end of the Grand Canal, also on it’s Eastern bank. Only the train station prevents the location being right at the mouth of the Canal again. Roeg has jumped from one end of the Grand Canal right to it’s other extremity. The Grand Canal is always described as the main artery of Venice, and John dies from a haemorrhaging artery when his throat is cut. Is Roeg using the entire city itself as a pointer to the inevitability of John being killed in this fashion? The other significant moment the Grand Canal is used in the film is in it’s last three shots, which were filmed at the church of San Stae (one of which, the very last in the movie is a very poor freeze frame). This is located almost exactly half way along the artery, and is on the West bank. The western shore has been the symbolic realm of the dead in many cultures for millenia. Has Roeg mapped out the artery in John’s throat in the shape of the Canal, and slashed it in the centre with the film’s final location?

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Cut throat costume
Roeg was attracted to all sorts of esoteric ideas about magic and the occult and his previous film Walkabout (which receives a direct quote in Don’t Look Now) concerned the Aboriginal practice of using stories and myths to create a sense of location and direction within vast landscapes.

Of course, this only becomes obvious if you look at the locations on a map, but as this occurred to me after just working on the location guide for a couple days over a dull weekend, imagine what a film maker with Roeg’s vision could have conjured, looking at maps of that heart shaped Island for the months of pre-production? Or maybe I need to get out more…

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* Donald Sutherland and Adelina Poerio eventually had another cinematic connection. Adelina had already performed for Federico Felllini in his splendid little mocumentary, I Clowns (1970), in which she played a crazy, staircase climbing nun. Some three years later Donald would return to Venice (at least one built in Cinicitta studios in Roma) to portray Casanova in Federico’s epic.

** The Macallan as a luxury item also appeares in Skyfall (a 1962 bottle) and episode 6 in season 3 of Better Call Saul (a 1966 bottling). In episode 5 of season 1 of True Detective Woody Harrelson bribes a former superior officer with a more economic bottle of 12 year old. The screenplay for Don’t Look Now and four of Roeg’s other movies was co-written by Scotsman Allan Shiach under the name Allan Scott. His other main line of work was in the Scotch whisky industry, and he was chairman and chief executive of Macallan – Glenlivet for 18 years. Bottles also appear in Roeg’s Castaway and The Witches.

More Nicholas Roeg film locations here