7.3/10
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43 user 37 critic

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.

Director:

Peter Greenaway

Writer:

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

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Higgins ... R Neville / Mr Neville
Janet Suzman ... Virginia Herbert / Mrs Herbert
Anne-Louise Lambert ... Mrs. Talmann (as Anne Louise Lambert)
Hugh Fraser ... Mr Talmann
Neil Cunningham Neil Cunningham ... Thomas Noyes / Mr Noyes
Dave Hill Dave Hill ... Mr Herbert
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 (as Alastair Cumming)
Steve Ubels Steve Ubels ... Mr. van Hoyten
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

A landscape of lust and cunning. [Video Australia]


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | German | Dutch

Release Date:

30 June 1983 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

El contrato del dibujante See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£320,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The camera moves only a few times during tracking shots; otherwise, every shot is still. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[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 »

Connections

Spoofs Last Year at Marienbad (1961) See more »

Soundtracks

Eye For Optical Theory
(uncredited)
Written by Michael Nyman
Performed by Nyman Band
See more »

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User Reviews

Extraordinary, beautiful, puzzling and disturbing.
15 November 1998 | by catfishSee all my reviews

A most extraordinary film. A fascinating study of manipulation and murder, of sex, power and the abuse of sex and power. This is not always an easy film to like, it has a coldly clinical approach to its subject and protagonists which produces an intentionally distancing effect.

In one scene, the Draughtsman invites the Lady of the House to examine a painting, owned by her husband, in which a complex allegory appears to be being acted out. I see this as an analogy for the film as a whole - it is an arch, stylised, intelligent and beautiful puzzle (a murder-mystery) in which the audience is encouraged to consider the motives and objectives of the characters, but from which many important clues appear to have been deliberately removed.

This might all sound frustrating, but I find the film endlessly intriguing and entertaining. It's like a very clever and stunningly photographed Agatha Christie mystery, but without an annoying sleuth who comes along at the end and solves everything "oh-so-neatly".

The photography is exemplary (the cinematographer, Curtis Clark, seems to have done little else of note), with the camera hardly moving at all, except for an occasional tracking shot. The Kent countryside used to maximum effect, and the costumes are sumptuous (especially the wigs!). The music is also superb, with Michael Nyman producing probably his finest score.

An engaging, puzzling, visually stunning and, ultimately, rather disturbing film.


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