DON’T LOOK BACK: The Pieces of the Puzzle

I’m a big fan of mystery. Where there’s a mystery, there’s a puzzle to be solved. And with any mystery comes clues. “Don’t Look Back” is no exception. You might catch clues on the first viewing of the film, but you’ll likely catch more on the second. In the spirit of celebrating the mystery of the movie, while simultaneously deconstructing it, here are some clues to enhance your viewing experience of the movie.

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Remember, if you look hard enough, you will find the answers:

1. Triangles.

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Triangular shapes — in the production design, shot compositions and blocking of the actors — appear in critical moments of the film. The house Nora inherits, an A-frame structure, is itself a triangle. The shape of the house reflects the shape of the characters’ journey throughout the entire movie:


If the two characters are the sides of the house: where do they start, where do they meet and where do they split?

2. Green and Purple are complimentary colors.

complementary-color-wheelWho’s wearing green and who’s wearing purple? When are they wearing these specific colors? Do the colors ever switch characters?

3. Pay close attention to what is shown in mirrors.

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4. The Sputnik.

The Sputnik is a medium format twin lens reflex stereo camera introduced around 1955. It was developed and manufactured in Russia. Using 120mm film, the camera provides six 6×6 pairs (or twelve single images). As Peyton says: “It has two lenses. When I release the shutter, it takes two photographs of the same subject, simultaneously; but because the lenses are apart just so, each picture is slightly different.” Which replicates the way we see, with our eyes apart ‘just so.’

CM Capture 10When Peyton looks through the viewfinder, the image is reversed:

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We see through the viewfinder several times in the film. Think about the one time we see through the viewfinder and the image is not reversed.

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Who is holding the camera?

5. The Split-Diopter Lens.


We incorporate a Split-Diopter Lens to divide the frame between Nora and Peyton. This enables us to have both foreground and background in focus as we execute a split point-of-view.

Nora and Peyton are divided, yet connected on the same plane of focus.

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Notice how Peyton is first introduced and what the frame looks like when cutting back and forth between Nora and Peyton:

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The 180 degree line is intentionally broken, placing both Nora and Peyton on the same side of the frame. This results in our eye remaining in one spot (as opposed to shifting left-to-right-to-left in a traditional shot-reverse-shot) — the characters change, but their position remains one in the same, the blur of the Split-Diopter the only thing dividing them.

6. What is Nora wearing on her date with Jack? How is she wearing her hair?


7. Nora’s childhood bedroom.


Her bedroom — the room that Peyton rents — was the site of her abuse. The scene of the crime. And it literally hangs over the rest of the house. What kind of memories hang over the rest inside a troubled mind?

8. Lithium.

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Prolonged mood disorders are very serious, and the last line of defense is often “Lithium.” Prescribing Lithium is an indication that a patient’s mood disorder is not only quite serious, but has been worsening over the years. It is not uncommon for a psychotic break to occur if one were to stop taking their prescribed dosages. What are some of the symptoms that might accompany such a lapse?

9. Pay close attention to the moments in Nora’s life when Peyton shows up.

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Why does she appear at these moments?

10. Whose eye do we begin the film with and whose eye do we end the film with?

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At the beginning of the film, the camera enters the popsicle stick house. At the end of the film, the camera exits the real house — the one the popsicle stick version was modeled after.

It’s up to you to put the clues together and discover the answers. It’s perfectly okay to “figure out” some twists and turns while watching the film, or to not fully grasp them until long after you’ve finished watching the film. The point of the movie is to put you, the audience, into the shoes of our main character, Nora, and experience the events in the film as she experiences them, as she sees them unfolding around her.

Now I encourage you to watch the movie…and then look back!:

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  1. Thank you for this. I was actually looking for Ne retourne pas on IMDB when I came across this movie and read through it wondering if it was an American remake. As I haven’t seen either as of yet, I suspect it might be, but there are enough dissimilarities to make that inconclusive.

    Regardless of that, I love this page. As an audience member, you do wonder what the director, writer and actors went through during the creative process and this is a wonderful resource for that. It is always interesting to know when shots and frames don’t just “happen” but were planned to add more to the story than the action and dialogue. Thank you for that.

    Oh, after reading, now I feel I have to see your movie.

  2. Where i can buy The Split-Diopter Holder ?

    • It depends on what type of lens and camera you’re using. Most camera rental houses carry split-diopters.

      • Same as above: your pictures No.5, I am using ultra prime & 138mm split diopter.
        I am looking for that flexible split diaptor holder.
        Do you where I can buy it ?

        • Hi Simon,

          The split diopter holder in the image above is just a stock image. I believe that specific one was made by now defunct Optex. On “Don’t Look Back” we simply used a 138mm round in the screw in holder on the mattebox. I do wish someone still made such a device, however I’m sure one could be rigged with some rod starters, a 138mm round holder and maybe some JB weld for good luck.

          There’s a good picture of the Opted one at (3rd item down) if you want a reference to try and build your own.


  3. Thank you for sharing this kind of stuff with us. I’m searching from a long time a website like this one, keep up the good work.
    I’m going to watch your movie these days and maybe I’ll make a review.

  4. Christina Taft says

    Thanks! I just saw this and was confused by the ending of Don’t Look Back. I watched it because of Cassidy Freeman. I was reading comments and people say that Peyton was actually a part of Nora, and imagined. I think the split images, colors of purple, and Veronica, as well as Peyton showing up when she’s meeting these harmful people says that they were right. However, it’s confusing that Peyton would meet the officer in the cafe, and threaten the real estate woman.

    Peyten also called Dr. Barnes, and how else would the officer know about the molestation of her/rape of her (wasn’t sure which). Unless Nora actually was the one who called… I guess so.

    I guess the point was that Nora remembered Peyton from her childhood, and made her up to return during this moment, as an imaginary friend/her. I guess…

What are your thoughts?