7.3/10
7,115
34 user 24 critic

Drowning by Numbers (1988)

Clip
1:24 | Clip
Three generations of women all share the same problem: marriage woes, and they want to put an end to it.

Director:

Peter Greenaway

Writer:

Peter Greenaway
Reviews
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Twin zoologists lose their wives in a car accident and become obsessed with decomposing animals.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Brian Deacon, Eric Deacon, Andréa Ferréol
Comedy | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

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
Stars: Anthony Higgins, Janet Suzman, Anne-Louise Lambert
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An architect supervising an exhibition starts to have mysterious stomach pains while his life begins to fall apart.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Brian Dennehy, Chloe Webb, Lambert Wilson
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The wife of an abusive criminal finds solace in the arms of a kind regular guest in her husband's restaurant.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren
Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The magician Prospero attempts to stop his daughter's affair with an enemy.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: John Gielgud, Michael Clark, Michel Blanc
Nightwatching (2007)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An extravagant, exotic and moving look at Rembrandt's romantic and professional life, and the controversy he created by the identification of a murderer in the painting 'The Night Watch'.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Martin Freeman, Emily Holmes, Eva Birthistle
8 ½ Women (1999)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Following the death of a mother, a father and son open up a brothel in their Genevan estate after watching (1963).

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Vivian Wu
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A movie about the corruption in all levels of society. A baby is born from a supposed-to-be virgin woman, so a chain of hysteria about divine intervention in the birth takes place.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Julia Ormond, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Stone
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A woman with a body writing fetish seeks to find a combined lover and calligrapher.

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida
Biography | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

The venerated filmmaker Eisenstein is comparable in talent, insight and wisdom, with the likes of Shakespeare or Beethoven; there are few - if any - directors who can be elevated to such ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti, Maya Zapata
The Falls (1980)
Comedy | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

92 BBC documentary-style shorts that record the lives of 92 victims of the VUE (Violent Unexplained Event), each with last names beginning with "Fall."

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Peter Westley, Aad Wirtz, Michael Murray
History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Ornella Muti, Ennio Fantastichini, Remo Girone
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Joan Plowright ... Cissie Colpitts 1
Juliet Stevenson ... Cissie Colpitts 2
Joely Richardson ... Cissie Colpitts 3
Bernard Hill ... Madgett
Jason Edwards ... Smut
Bryan Pringle ... Jake
Trevor Cooper ... Hardy
David Morrissey ... Bellamy
John Rogan John Rogan ... Gregory
Paul Mooney Paul Mooney ... Teigan
Jane Gurnett Jane Gurnett ... Nancy
Kenny Ireland Kenny Ireland ... Jonah Bognor
Michael Percival Michael Percival ... Moses Bognor
Joanna Dickens Joanna Dickens ... Mrs. Hardy
Janine Duvitski Janine Duvitski ... Marina Bellamy
Edit

Storyline

Tired of her husband's philandering ways, the mother of two daughters drowns her husband. With the reluctant help of the local coroner, the murder is covered up. Her daughters are having similar problems with relationships, and tend to follow their mother's example, and the coroner becomes reluctantly involved in their murders as well. As the plot progresses, visual and spoken numbers appear in the scenes, counting from one to 100. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The great death game.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for numerous scenes of nudity and sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

UK | Netherlands

Language:

English

Release Date:

June 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Conspiración de mujeres See more »

Filming Locations:

Suffolk, England, UK

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$424,773
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The composition of the shot of Hardy's death mimics the painting by Andrea Mantegna called 'The Lamentation Over A Dead Christ (1480)'. See more »

Quotes

Smut: The object of this game is to dare to fall with a noose around your neck from a place sufficiently high enough off the ground, such that the fall will hang you. The object of the game is to punish those who have caused great unhappiness by their selfish actions. This is the best game of all, because the winner is also the loser, and the judge's decision is always final.
See more »

Connections

References Vertical Features Remake (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

2nd Movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra K354
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart)
Performed by Alexander Balanescu (violin) and Jonathan Carney (viola)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
I'm Not Waving Im Drowning (Best Films Ever Seen)
9 May 2010 | by loganx-2See all my reviews

Drowning By Numbers is one of a very small group of perfect films I've seen. Not just 5, 10, 100 point films, but flawless to the point where numerical systems fail to be valuable. Peter Greenaway's third film is about three women a mother, daughter, and niece all named Cissie Colpitts, who one by one drown their husbands in a bath, in the sea, and in a pool. After the first drowning, the local coroner is asked to help cover up the crime, and he agrees believing this will give him car blanche to have his way with the new widow. He is rebuked in the first of several such attempts. His name is Madgett and he orchestrates for the town a series of seemingly random, perhaps ancient (in fact completely made up) games, consisting of strange rules and regulations, like "Hangman's Cricket" where half the game is spent learning the rules. Madgett's son is named Smut(our narrator), and Smut is interested in a young girl dressed in a fancy gown who always claims to be on her way to a party, and who jumps rope counting from 1 to 100 in the films opening sequence. Numbers appear in every scene whether spoken aloud or written on a small or large object in the background. One could make the film itself into a game called "spot the numbers", which count from the first scene to the last from 1 to 100. The film is full of small details some so obscure they are likely to please no one but Peter Greenaway or those willing to watch his behind the scenes blow-by blow "Fear Of Drowning", where for instance, we learn that many lines of dialog consist of the last words of England's kings, sometimes crazed non-sequitters muttered from their death beds. Why include such things, because it makes the game for fun, that's why. As always Greenaway composes every single sequence to achieve a sense of balance, and painterly poise. As usual most scenes, including idle landscape shots are recreations of paintings. Though the images are fantastic, the soundtrack by frequent collaborator Michael Nyman is stunning. I can't think of a director and composer whose works fuse together with such iconoclastic fluid grace since Sergio Leone and Ennio Mariconne. Nyyman's orchestral compositions are energetic, pulsating, lively, and captivating enough to be listened to and enjoyed apart from the film as its own music, and gives a sharp sense of irony and comic timing of its own to Greenaway's visual tableaux. Greenaway is not what you would call a "humanist" director, he rarely shoots close ups, instead remains in wide screen, and letting his characters take up positions as figures in an image, not actors on a stage, or in a film. This can be difficult to deal with if identification with characters is a pre-requisite for enjoyment, because the film aims for visual awe, wafts of aural pleasure, and snatches of witty literate dialog that only doesn't sound like dialog because of the casual delivery the lead actresses are able to give their macabre melodrama. Drowning By Numbers is a multi-layered film meant to be watched several times.

It is a monument to be marveled at, but one where all of the elements of the film medium contribute the structure and design of the piece as whole, where form and content perfectly integrated into each other. The women who drown their husbands, at first do it out of anger, then out of disappointment, and finally out of "solidarity", or in other words for no real reason at all. The pattern of threes needs to be complete, three murders, three autopsies, and three funerals. We know the husbands will die, they are as inexorably fated to their turns in the plot as all people are fated for death, as films are fated to end after a certain number of scenes. We are made hyper-aware of these numbers because they are flashed in a countdown on screen. Does anyone remember the death clock, http://www.deathclock.com/, how it works is after a few personal details are typed in a clock appears counting down to the exact moment you will die. You can watch your life flicker away by measurements. We are all drowning in numbers. Yet it's not all doom and gloom, because the coroner while being an eternal bachelor as fated to be rejected by the widows he assists as their husbands were to watery graves, he is also the master of games. Like his first film the Draughtsman's' Contract the battle of the sexes consumes the characters, where in Draughtsman, an artist who believes he is having his way with a mother and daughter discovers all to late, he is in fact being used and disposed of, so does Madgett find himself helpless in the face of "female solidarity", leaving him to his only recourse of playing more games. Sure death is just around the corner at all times, but there are so many marvelous, silly, frivolous distractions to amuse ourselves with in the meantime; life and all of its contents. "No Country For Old Men" and Blow-Up have both made this same point about death's inevitability and life as a game of chance, but where both those films suffered a self-serious somberness Drowning By Numbers remembers to be a tragic-comedy and not just a tragedy. Life is absurd, of course of course, but the absurd can be very funny, and humor after all is happiness' cheeky cousin, sometimes inappropriate, but nearly always welcome. Smut: "The full flavor of the game Hangman's Cricket is best appreciated after the game has been played for several hours, by then every player has an understanding of the many rules and knows which character they want to play permanently, finally an outright loser is found and is obliged to present himself to the Hangman who is always merciless".


10 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 34 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed