Cultural Androgyny and Gendered Authorship in Don't Look Now

By Houtman, Coral | PSYART, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Cultural Androgyny and Gendered Authorship in Don't Look Now


Houtman, Coral, PSYART


This article will examine gender identification and authorship in the film adaptation of Don't Look Now. The short story and film adaptation question the nature of gender, positing a bisexuality where male and female co-exist within individuals, where sexual relationships are unfathomable, and where the world in which the characters exist is "mixed up". I will argue that Don't Look Now dramatises sexual difference as a dangerous division, pervasive both within nature and within the psyche, inherent in both men and women. However, I will also demonstrate that the act of adaptation by a male director within a patriarchal film industry, subtly alters the performance of sexual difference in the text. Whilst du Maurier's novel embraces femininity as a positive quality, embracing instinct and common sense, the film figures it as negative and hostile, instead celebrating masculinity as rational and femininity as chaos.

keywords: Authorship, Lacan, bisexuality, sexual difference, gender, narratology, hysteria, focalization, point of view.

url: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2009_houtman01.shtml

And then the boy realised he had to grow up and not be a boy any longer, so he turned into a girl, and not an unattractive one at that, and the boy was locked in a box forever. D. du M. wrote her books, and had young men, and later a husband, and children, and a lover, and life was sometimes lovely and sometimes rather sad, but when she found Menabilly and lived in it alone, she opened up the box sometimes and let the phantom, who was neither girl nor boy but disembodied spirit, dance in the evening when there was no one to see..

Daphne Du Maurier (Forster 222)

While I was shooting Bad Timing, Art Garfunkel came up to me and said he realized he was really playing me. But I told him that was only part of it. I challenged him to decipher when I was wearing the trousers and when I was wearing the dress.

Nicholas Roeg (Lanza 131)

This article will examine how the ambiguity in relation to gender expressed above by Du Maurier and Roeg is manifest in Don't Look Now. The short story and film adaptation question the nature of gender, positing a world where male and female co-exist within individuals in a bisexuality full of internal conflict, where sexual relationships are unfathomable, and where the world in which the characters exist is "mixed up", a danger which both texts characterise as a mixture of male rationality and the female irrational. I will argue that Don't Look Now dramatises sexual difference as a dangerous division, pervasive both within nature and within the psyche, inherent in both men and women. However, I will also demonstrate that the act of adaptation by a male director within a patriarchal film industry, subtly alters the performance of sexual difference and as a woman, Du Maurier actually dramatises story and characters differently from Roeg. By closely analysing the adaptation of Don't Look Now, I will show that Daphne du Maurier and Nicholas Roeg envisage their imagination as writers as being bisexual and able to inhabit both their female and male characters and Don't Look Now (F & SS) demonstrates this imaginative inhabiting of the characters to a remarkable degree. Nevertheless, whilst du Maurier's novel sees femininity as a positive quality, the film sees it as negative and hostile. Thus there is a correlation between the female gender of the novel's author and the performance of sexual difference in the novel, and equally a correlation between the male director and predominantly male crew of the film and the film's own performance of sexual difference which celebrates masculinity as rational and femininity as chaos.

In Don't Look Now, both texts are united in their concern to portray the profound sense of loss which is produced upon the death of a child. In Don't Look Now (F) the loss is expressed explicitly. The opening montage sequence where John and Laura lose their daughter shows John's grief as time and space shattering: he cradles the small form of his drowned little girl in his arms over and over again in slow motion, as he brings her out of the water. …

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