The Draughtsman's Contract

Released in 1982, The Draughtsman's Contract was an early feature-length film release from the director Peter Greenaway. A contract is made between an artist and a landowning lady, recently estranged from her husband. He will create drawings of her house, and in return she will provide pleasure for the artist.
Mocking the artistic dictum
Yes, that sort of pleasure. As the artist begins his task, and the lady hers, a murderous plot is hatched. As the evidence is put before us, Greenaway seems to be mocking the artistic dictum 'draw what you see, not what you know'...

Film as Painting

As with all of Peter Greenaway's films, The Draughtsman's Contract has a painterly quality. The positioning and framing of the shots make it seem as if Baroque paintings are being brought to life. Stylised, but an arrestingly visual treat. The script makes use of period formality and artifice in speech to wittily hang invective and double-meaning to the dialogue, which is delivered in fine performances by the actors. Let's also mention the wonderfully exaggerated costumes.

The film is playful, intelligent, but also a serious piece of art, and a film that uplifts and provides new delights with repeat viewing.

Purcell through Nyman
The music for the film is by long-time collaborator Michael Nyman who reinterprets the music of Henry Purcell. One of the pieces is a version of Purcell's She Loves, and She Confesses Too. A song I will never, ever, tire of hearing. And pretty raunchy lyrics for the time they were written too. (At least that's my interpretation.)

She loves and she confesses too,
There's then at last no more to do;
The happy work's entirely done,
Enter the town which thou hast won;
The fruits of conquest now begin,
Lo, triumph, enter in.
What's this, ye Gods? What can it be?
Remains there still an enemy?
Bold Honour stands up in the gate,
And would yet capitulate.
Have I o'ercome all real foes,
And shall this phantom me oppose?
Noisy nothing, stalking shade,
By what witchcraft wert thou made,
Thou empty cause of solid harms?
But I shall find out counter charms,
Thy airy devilship to remove
From this circle here of love
Sure I shall rid myself of thee
By the night's obscurity,
And obscurer secrecy;
Unlike to ev'ry other spright
Thou attempt'st not men to affright
Nor appear'st but in the light.

Another lovely version of the same song is by The Dowland Project on their Care-charming Sleep album on the ECM label.


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