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The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

A young artist is commissioned by the wife of a wealthy landowner to make a series of drawings of the estate while her husband is away.


Peter Greenaway


Peter Greenaway
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Higgins ... R Neville / Mr Neville
Janet Suzman ... Virginia Herbert / Mrs Herbert
Anne-Louise Lambert ... Mrs. Talmann / Mrs. Herbert's daughter (as Anne Louise Lambert)
Hugh Fraser ... Mr Talmann / Mrs. Herbert's son-in-law
Neil Cunningham Neil Cunningham ... Thomas Noyes / Mr Noyes
Dave Hill ... Mr Herbert / Mrs Herbert's husband
David Gant ... Mr Seymour
David Meyer David Meyer ... The Poulencs
Tony Meyer Tony Meyer ... The Poulencs
Nicholas Amer ... Mr Parkes (as Nicolas Amer)
Suzan Crowley ... Mrs Pierpont
Lynda La Plante ... Mrs Clement (as Lynda Marchal)
Michael Feast ... The Statue
Alastair G. Cumming ... Philip / Mr Neville's assistant (as Alastair Cumming)
Steve Ubels 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 <pkharm@papyrus-inc.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A landscape of lust and cunning. [Video Australia]


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

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]
Mr. Noyes: Mr. Chandos was a man who spent more time with his gardener than his wife. They discussed plum trees - ad nauseam. He gave his family and his tennants cause to dread September, for they were regaled with plums till their guts rumbled like thunder and their backsides ached from overuse. He built the chapel at Fouvant, where the pew seats are made of plumwood, so the tennants still have cause to remember Chandos through their backsides - on account of the splinters.
See more »

Alternate Versions

When Peter Greenaway screened the movie at festivals in 1982, it ran a full three hours. Included in this footage is a full and further explained rationale for the moving statue. See more »


Garden Is Becoming A Robe Room
Written by Michael Nyman
Performed by Nyman Band
See more »

User Reviews

Peter Greenaway's first commercially released feature film is a calling card of dazzling virtuosity.
7 May 2020 | by mwilson1976See all my reviews

Peter Greenaway's smart, outrageous, and utterly original historic movie is part comedy of manners and part murder mystery, as a late 17th century draughtsman (Anthony Higgins) is tasked with producing a series of drawings for the Herbert family estate by the lady of the manor (Janet Suzan) in order to please her husband, but he ends up pleasing himself with both Mrs Herbert and her daughter (Anne-Louise Herbert), before the husband is found dead in the moat and he becomes prime suspect in his murder. This was Greenaway's first conventional feature film, it shows him at his best and most playful, and is a calling card of dazzling virtuosity. The original cut ran in excess of three hours but was edited down to 103 minutes for release to make it easier to watch. It is still a puzzle box of a movie and a real strange delight though, featuring elaborate and slightly exaggerated (for eye catching effect) period costumes, a wonderful score by Michael Nyman which borrows widely from Henry Purcell, that reflects the period setting whilst managing to rock with a vengeance, and a 'living statue' that roams the garden unseen to all but children, it is a movie that you won't forget in a hurry. Incidentally, Greenaway trained as an artist before he became a filmmaker, and the hands seen drawing in the film are his own, as are the completed drawings.

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English | German | Dutch

Release Date:

30 June 1983 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

The Draughtsman's Contract See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »


Box Office


GBP320,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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