“A landscape of lust and cunning.”
17th century England – A cocksure young artist is contracted by 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 take on an even greater significance than supposed upon the discovery of the murdered body of the landowner.
Masquerading as restoration comedy, The Draughtman’s Contract is a dark, elegant and multi-layered murder mystery. A comedy of manners that masks a primal face. This was the debut feature of Peter Greenaway, and the one that saw him become internationally recognised for his provocative vision and intellectual aesthetics. Delighting in constructing dramatic “puzzles” that defy easy solutions, and drawing heavily on visual references from art history, Greenway weaves such rich and complex tapestries that his films are seen as unique amongst the history of cinema. The painterly atmosphere of The Draughtman’s Contract refers directly to Baroque artists such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer and George de La Tour and the music of Henry Purcell was the inspiration for Michael Nyman‘s beautifully crafted score. Intertwined with the oddities of this murder mystery as seen from Greenaway’s deliberately cool perspective, is an investigation into such themes as class, sexuality and religious opposition at the end of the 17th century, as well as a philosophical study of the problem of artists’ perception of the world. Brilliantly staged and acted, full of extravagant visual and verbal wit, this is definitely isn’t your standard costume drama fare. The Draughtman’s Contract is an intriguingly intricate world where nothing is as it appears – a masterpiece that rewards repeated viewings.