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The Belly of an Architect (1987)

R | | Drama | 16 October 1987 (UK)
An American architect arrives in Italy, supervising an exhibition for a French architect, Boullée, who is famous for his oval structures. Through the course of 9 months he becomes obsessed ... See full summary »




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2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Louisa Kracklite
Caspasian Speckler
Io Speckler
Stefania Casini ...
Flavia Speckler
Vanni Corbellini ...
Alfredo Varelli ...
Geoffrey Copleston ...
Francesco Carnelutti ...
Marino Masé ...
Claudio Spadaro ...
Rate Furlan ...
Julian Jenkins ...
Old Doctor
Enrica Maria Scrivano ...


An American architect arrives in Italy, supervising an exhibition for a French architect, Boullée, who is famous for his oval structures. Through the course of 9 months he becomes obsessed with his belly, suffers severe stomach pains, loses his wife, exhibition, his unborn child and finally his own life. Written by Ofir Zwebner <ofirz@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




R | See all certifications »






Release Date:

16 October 1987 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Der Bauch des Architekten  »

Box Office


$287,725 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Etienne-Louis Boullee (1728-1799) was a real architect. Many of his neoclassical designs that were built still exist, mostly in Paris, France. His project for the Cenotaph for Isaac Newton has been much studied by architects for its viability, not least by Albert Speer who modeled the New Berlin for Hitler. The cake presented to Kracklite at the initial banquet is a perfect replica of Boullee's drawings for the Isaac Newton Cenotaph. See more »


When photocopying the picture of Augustus, Kracklite puts the picture in upside down which would have given a blank copy (unless the same picture was on both sides). Additionally, it would not be possible to achieve the level of resolution of Augustus' abdomen from such a small picture. See more »


Caspasian Speckler: Your wife is very beautiful, Signor Kracklite, especially when she is pregnant.
Stourley Kracklite: Yes, that's right. She is pregnant. But not with your child, Speckler.
Caspasian Speckler: True. I'm very grateful to you for that. Your child, shall we say, is the most perfect contraceptive.
[Kracklite turns and punches Speckler in the nose]
See more »


Referenced in Peter Greenaway in Indianapolis (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

My favourite Greenaway
9 February 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

It was a shock for me to discover having watched several of Peter Greenaway's films, and having loved many, that this for me, is easily his best from what I've seen. I will temper that by saying that I saw this in the cinema, and the cinema does wonders for many films. I find Greenaway's Baby of Macon, for example, has too much detail and visual complexity to be particularly accessible via home viewing. Greenaway has indeed been criticised for an overly painterly approach to detail in his films, which some deem not fit for a medium with a moving image. His long time collaborator cinematographer Sacha Vierny for example considered Prospero's Books a failure for the over-cluttering with visual detail that was cinematically indigestible.

The late Sacha Vierny doesn't get talked about nearly enough, other than Belly and most of the famous Greenaway films, he shot Last Year in Marienbad for Resnais, as well as the majority of the famous pre-80s Resnais movies; The Three Crowns of the Sailor, amongst others for Ruiz; Bof Anatomie d'un Livreur for Faraldo, a marvellous though little seen film; Belle de Jour for Bunuel; La Femme Publique and others for Zulawski; as well as collaborations with Chris Marker, Maguerite Duras, and Sally Potter. The critical part he played in these great movies is rarely sung. As Vierny was not interested in fame and rarely gave interviews, how much direction he took and how much of his own artistry he plyed will forever remain an enigma. As with most of this work, The Belly of An Architect is a really great looking film.

The story of this film is about an architect played by Brian Dennehy, called Stourley Kracklite, if you can believe such an indigestible name, hinting at gastric stagnancy and duodenal eructations. In consonancy with his name, he spends the movie plagued by sluggish prickly guts. Kracklite has always admired an obscure 18th century French architect called Étienne-Louis Boullée, a real-life architect who was famous more for his astonishing designs than for actual won commissions (this has often been a hazard for architects I believe). Make good use of the internet or your library and look up his magnificently insane design for Newton's tomb, which was never taken up, or his sprawling design for the Bibliothque Nationale. Due to his overreaching ambition he therefore ended up making mostly private homes, and there's only a handful of his built projects left in existence.

So Kracklite has finished with making his own buildings, and spent the last ten years of his life planning an exhibition on Boullée to be held in Rome. There are a lot of typical Greenaway features here, obsession with food, cuckoldry, a battle between an older and younger man. Somehow Greenaway managed here to take his usual stuff beyond an academic game to a place where there is mythos, and poesy. Greenaway for me is a director with a deep feeling for lifecycle, he doesn't present children as small adults, or middle aged men as ephebes with jowls and paunches.

For me it's a film about lifecycle and meaning, and homage to genius. I just adore it.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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