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The Draughtsman's Contract
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Draughtsman's Contract More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"The maturing delights of her country garden"

Author: Ali_Catterall from London, England
26 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the late 17th century a pompous and avaricious draughtsman, Mr Neville (Higgins), is hired by Mrs Herbet (Suzman) to sketch her husband's opulent manor (situated in Groombridge Place, in Kent) from differing viewpoints. In return, he demands an extravagant fee, use of their lodgings - and Mrs Herbert's sexual favours ("the maturing delights of her country garden").

After getting entangled with Mrs Herbet's daughter, Mrs Talmann (a chilly Lambert), the exploiter becomes the exploited. Neville belatedly realises his employer's dark ulterior motive: to further the Herbert bloodline, and take the rap for the murder of Mr Herbet, the clues to which have apparently been revealed through his seemingly innocuous sketches. "Brilliant and archly humoured", said the Guardian; "a load of posturing poo-poo" according to fellow director Alan Parker. Which is it to be? Like much of Antonioni's canon, Greenaway's sour little truffles aren't exactly the warmest, most emotive of items, substituting cerebral and technical flair over the ability to make an audience laugh, cry, and generally punch the air and whoop for joy. Accordingly, most criticism of Greenaway's first feature (a transparent reworking of the aforementioned director's Blow Up in theme and execution) focused on The Draughtman's Contract's determinedly detached and studiously mannered quality - though rightly acknowledging the sumptuous photography, Michael Nyman's pounding score, borrowed from Purcell, and the wonderfully arch and playful script (triple-layered and authentically earthy by turn).

Greenaway apologists will recognise the director's favoured themes of sex, death, female power play, and moral and physical decay (the latter most noticeable in the saturated cinematography, indicating all is far from stable in this Jacobean paradise). Newcomers may either be irritated beyond belief, or intrigued by what is essentially a philosophical meditation on fertility rites, the transient nature of perception, and class exploitation. Either way, it's an unforgettable experience.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"The arty - farty posing as art"

Author: ianlouisiana from United Kingdom
28 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I saw this back in the eighties one member of the sparse audience (not comprising of clever - clever critics,rather mystified filmgoers who had actually paid good money)shouted "What b*ll*cks!"at the screen and stumped out with his equally outraged companion who obliged with a loud raspberry. They had lasted a bum - numbing 40 minutes,enduring the arty - farty posing as art that Mr Greenaway had forced upon them,no doubt hoping to "improve" their narrow,blinkered,provincial middle - class lives by showing the narrow,blinkered,provincial lives of the 18th century English aristocracy as he conceived them. I know we Brits are to supposed to love this sort of arrant nonsense because,after all,we virtually invented intellectual snobbery,and nothing pleases the chattering classes more than that feeling of superiority that ensues from their declared enjoyment of something so clearly b*ll*cks that the lumpen proletariat reject it out of hand.

I've now endured this tiresome film three times hoping to "unlock its mystery"as one of my more intellectually - gifted chums puts it. But it still goes way above my head. It's tedious and phoney and,frankly,up its own bottom. In my opinion,that disgruntled moviegoer thirty - odd years ago hit the nail on the head.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Rich, tart and amusing art-house thriller

Author: Framescourer from London, UK
27 November 2006

This film should really be a 4 star triumph. Almost the entire film is constituted of still-framed shots on location, optimising and occasionally irrespective of the weather conditions. The acting is brilliant; stylised, sure, but always engaging and intriguing. The script is an object lesson in exposition and narrative through convincing dialogue. Crucially the whole thing is endlessly amusing, witty, startling, suggestive and naughty.

There's a problem. Mindful of its aesthetic, it's static and relies on the highly wrought script too much. The vernacular (another seamlessly incorporated feature of the writing) intensifies its density... consequently I found it difficult to follow in the detail it probably deserved. Not as tense, nor as sexy a piece as The Cook etc. but funnier. 6/10

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: SnoopyStyle
15 July 2016

Mr. Neville is a young arrogant artist full of himself. He is contracted to make landscape estate drawings by Mrs. Virginia Herbert. She has a bitter relationship with her wealthy landowning husband who leaves on a trip. She submits to Neville sexually as part of the contract. There is also her daughter Mrs. Talmann and her husband Mr. Talmann. The couple is childless taking care of his nephew. Mrs. Herbert tries to revoke the contract but Neville refuses. Mrs. Talmann blackmails Neville into entering a similar contract pointing out items in his drawings which indicate "misadventure". When Mr. Herbert is found dead in the moat, Neville is horrified to discover that he's the leading suspect.

This is an unusual film. It's a Shakespearian sex romp with a murder mystery. The style has long takes and mid to long distance visuals. The movie lost me the first time around. It can meander and the story can be mercurial. It would help a lot if the murder is shown even if the perpetrators are not. The individual clues need accompanying flashbacks to show that part of the crime. This has a certain amount of beauty and weird originality but it's not easy for everyone.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Draughtman's Contract

Author: Jackson Booth-Millard from United Kingdom
13 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the directorial debut of Peter Greenaway (Drowning by Numbers; The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, The Pillow Book), and I found it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I hoped it would deserve five stars out of five as critics rated it. Basically set in rural Wiltshire, England in 1694, young and arrogant artist Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins), also something of a romantic hero, is contracted by Mrs. Virginia Herbert (Janet Suzman) to produce 12 landscape drawings of the estate of her absent and estranged husband Mr. Herbert (Dave Hill). Part of the contract agreement is to meet with Mr. Neville in private, and to comply with his requests for the purposes of drawing, such as when servants and residents will not be present and obstructions will be removed during his sketching. Also Mr. Neville's contract agreement includes his pleasure, several sexual encounters follow between him and Mrs. Herbert, emphasising reluctance or distress for Mrs. Herbert, and showing the sexual aggression or insensitivity of Mr. Neville, while living on the estate he also gains a reputation with its dwellers, especially with Mr. Talmann (Hugh Fraser), Mrs. Herbert's son-in-law. Mrs. Herbert exhausted by meeting Mr. Neville to give him pleasure tries to terminate the contract before all drawings are completed, but the draughtsman refuses to stop and void the contract, he continues as before. Then Mr. Neville seems to be blackmailed into making a second contract by Mrs. Herbert's married but as yet childless daughter Mrs. Talmann (Anne-Louise Lambert), she has become attracted to him and he agrees to satisfy her pleasure, as opposed to his own. A number of curious objects appear in Mr. Neville's drawings, ultimately pointing to the murder of Mr. Herbert, who is found dead in the moat, the twelve drawings are completed, but Mr. Neville returns for an unlucky thirteenth drawing. While apparently completing the final drawing, Mr. Neville is approached by a masked stranger, obviously Mr. Talmann in disguise, he is joined by Mr. Thomas Noyes (Neil Cunningham), Mr. Seymour (David Gant) and eccentric landowner twins the Poulencs (Octopussy's David and Tony Meyer). The company accuses Mr. Neville of the murder of Mr. Herbert, as the drawings can be interpreted as evidence seeing more than one illegal act, he defensively denies these accusations, he is asked to remove his hat, which he does so mockingly, that is when they hit him on the head, burn out his eyes, club him to death, and throw his body into the moat where Mr. Herbert's body was found. Also starring Lynda La Plante as Mrs. Clement and Michael Feast as The Statue. Higgins gives a great performance as the arrogant artist paid in sexual favours, the aristocratic 17th century world looks authentic with great costumes and the beautiful estate, the drawing scenes are interesting, the sexual scenes are good, and the murder plot towards, with the drawings becoming witness evidence, is intriguing, also with great use of minimalist music by Michael Nyman that fit the remarkable visuals, and a witty script, it is a fantastic period drama. Very good!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

My brief review of the film

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
10 October 2005

A bizarre, quite unique period film, it is full of odd occurrences and it is technically quite well made, however the product is less than satisfying overall. Some of the dialogue is just rambling, and towards the end I really felt that this bogged down the production, despite some funny lines in the mix. The characters come off as rather cold, and some sequences in the film are not really explained properly. But is this confused and unwelcoming atmosphere what Greenaway intended? It might well be, even if knowing that does not help fix the uneasiness that one might feel when watching it. But enough of the 'bad', for the film has some great aspects too. Michael Nyman composes some wonderful music to fit alongside the action, the sets and costumes are flashy and eye-catching, and Greenaway particularly pays attention to giving the material a unique feel with the lighting design. It is an unusual film, and that makes it fascinating. Not the best out there, and from its director I prefer 'A Zed and Two Noughts', however this one is still worth a look.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A great treat.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
24 October 2007

Guess I really like this sort of period movies, about the British upper-class in the 17th century. The movies have an own unique kind of style and atmosphere over them. This especially really goes for this unique little film.

it's a very witty movie and halve way through it also becomes obvious exactly how intelligently the movie is written and constructed. At first it doesn't look like the movie is heading anywhere and it's merely a good and enjoyable movie filled with some slightly subtle eccentric and quirky characters. But about halve way through it becomes clear that the intentions within the story and the intentions of the characters have way more in to them, when the movie becomes more of a murder-mystery and layered and the character's motivations all start to take form and become clear. It makes the movie surprisingly and delightful. It's a really well constructed and visually crafted movie from Peter Greenaway.

The movie doesn't have the Jane Austen kind of story and approach but more like "Barry Lyndon" with the same certain quirkiness in it, if I need to compare it to anything else. The movie has a sort of a surreal kind of atmosphere over it, which gets strengthened all the more by the outrageous costumes and wigs, thick accents and extremely difficult but beautiful to listen to- dialog and of course the special kind of characters that are in the movie. It's also a very sexy and sort of erotic movie to watch at, with almost always a sort of sexual tension in the atmosphere during the entire movie, despite not having any real nudity or explicit nude scene's in it.

The whole movie is almost entire filmed in a stage-play kind of approach, with no moving camera's and long sequences filled with dialog. Really the sort of stuff you normally experience during a stage-play. It all adds up to the reasons why this movie is a quite unique and delightful little movie to watch.

This movie is a great watch, as long as you're capable of handling the long and difficult dialog and the more stage-play kind of storytelling.


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So much misunderstanding

Author: Kiers (Kiers77)
23 July 2017

There is no need to hate this movie. It's quite enjoyable by itself. It doesn't require any heavy intellectual digging or background instruction manual to appreciate. Plus, it's quirky comedy is being taken as mysterious and dark. Please! Just enjoy it and laugh. The humor is irksome but funny. It's like a bit of Shakespeare. It has meaningful plot and fun dialogs. The guy who wrote the review centering on the Draughtsman's "arrogance and innocence "(a dangerous combo!) had it spot on, and this personality flaw is key to the plot. Thoroughly enjoyable and funny and clever. Architects everywhere, TAKE COVER! LOL.

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Author: Kirpianuscus from Romania
29 May 2017

the seduction. this is the purpose and the basic virtue. ambiguous, strange, cold, sarcastic, a garden of dialogues, colors and emotions. a thriller and chronicle of use of the other as simple tool. a film of its director. so, nothing surprising because the eccentricity, the fireworks of few scenes, the grotesque and its bizarre poetry are present as marks of a style. like the humor, costumes, clash between a young painter and an obscure universe of interests , plans and contracts. a film who seems be one of stories about sins in the too clear manner. and this could be its basic source of seduction.

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My reaction: I think I have just watched the worst movie of my life.

Author: anninabillyjoe
8 May 2017

It's everything that can be wrong in a movie. All based on dialogue - boring dialogue -, "important" details that are weird and intricate and not underlined at all, bad acting or most probably just poor stylistic choices, allegories and metaphors not understandable, repetitive images, plot that jumps from one thing to the other, stupid characters with no purpose whatsoever...

The murder mystery is hinted at and not central at all, as well as the fertility myth and plot line. Greenway just wanted to make a movie about someone who drew a house "as he saw it and not as he knew it" (by his own admission in the extra of the DVD) and added all the other elements because of necessity, so he really didn't care a lot about them and it shows. What was supposed to be funny wasn't, what was supposed to be scandalous was pretty plain and what was supposed to be a big reveal or twist did not have an effect at all because it came after two boring hours and it happened to characters I did not care one bit about.

Overall I found this movie not enjoyable at all. It probably wasn't the intention of the makers to make it so, but at this point they probably should have just made an art documentary.

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