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The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Mystery  |  30 June 1983 (Netherlands)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,681 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 36 critic

Mr. Neville, a cocksure young artist is contracted by Mrs. Herbert, the wife of a wealthy landowner, to produce a set of twelve drawings of her husband's estate, a contract which extends ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
R Neville / Mr Neville
Virginia Herbert / Mrs Herbert
Anne-Louise Lambert ...
Mrs. Talmann (as Anne Louise Lambert)
Mr Talmann
Neil Cunningham ...
Thomas Noyes / Mr Noyes
Dave Hill ...
Mr Herbert
Mr Seymour
David Meyer ...
The Poulencs
Tony Meyer ...
The Poulencs
Mr Parkes (as Nicolas Amer)
Mrs Pierpont
Mrs Clement (as Lynda Marchal)
The Statue
Steve Ubels ...
Mr. van Hoyten


Mr. Neville, a cocksure young artist is contracted by Mrs. Herbert, the wife of a wealthy landowner, to produce a set of twelve drawings of her husband's estate, a contract which extends much further than either the purse or the sketchpad. The sketches themselves prove of an even greater significance than supposed upon the discovery of the body of Mr. Herbert. Written by Paul Kevin Harm <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A landscape of lust and cunning. [Video Australia]


Comedy | Drama | Mystery


R | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

30 June 1983 (Netherlands)  »

Also Known As:

El contrato del dibujante  »

Box Office


£320,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Composer Michael Nyman's music score featured modernized arrangements of 17th Century English composer Henry Purcell. See more »


The cooing of a collared dove is not a sound that would have fallen on Jacobean ears, as the species was unknown in Britain until 1955. See more »


[first lines]
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Referenced in Peter Greenaway in Indianapolis (1997) See more »


Bravura In The Face Of Grief
Written by Michael Nyman
Performed by Nyman Band
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User Reviews

Self Referential Allegorical Mystery
22 July 2000 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

Is Greenaway our most intelligent filmmaker? One of them at least. He is master of lush self-referential allegory. Here this is hung on a mystery masquerading as restoration comedy. Just maintaining the period and manner is quite a feat.

Self-reference. The film is about an artist who creates rich images that include incongruous elements. The arrogance of the artist is balanced by his blindness as to the meaning, the context of what the images reveal. Both the artist and the viewers are confused by the meaning and flummoxed by the events that the meaning triggers. Greenaway clearly means this to extend to himself, his film and the incompleteness of what we the viewers see. The drawings and the drawer's hands are in fact his.

Fantasy-allegory. This is a film richer in symbology than Drowning and Cook, but probably less so than the later `book' movies. Great attention has been spent on recondite supplementary images, including a central painting in the house being itself painted by the draftsman and filmmaker. I viewed it (the whole film) once just for details. The living statue is only the most obvious illogical element, and in fact draws attention away from other smaller visual diversions.

Mystery artifice. The whole environment is one of genteel artifice, hiding cruel mechanics of conspiracy. The cleverness of the construction is that Greenaway and us are full conspirators. No one, not us, him or the characters shown fully understand what is going on. The mystery form has always been a dialog between artist and consumer, a contest to see who can outwit whom. Very clever use of the mystery form here to include us in the artifice by not ever `playing fair.'

Restoration comedy. Past the visual allegory and the fantasy mystery and the self-reference is a restoration comedy which taken straight is hilarious. The statue is from this form.

My only criticisms are minor. This film contains a restrained story, and incidentally all sex takes place offscreen. Why be so conservative in these areas? Also, Lady Herbert required a more powerful actress I think.

34 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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