The Draughtsman's Contract


Comedy / Drama / History / Mystery

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 86%
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 9,102


Downloaded times
December 28, 2020


Anthony Higgins as R Neville / Mr Neville
Hugh Fraser as Mr Talmann / Mrs. Herbert's son-in-law
Michael Carter as Mr Clarke
Michael Feast as The Statue
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
988.33 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
108 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.98 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
108 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Filmtribute 10 / 10 / 10

Witty and intelligent multi-layered delight

This very witty and intelligent film is structured on many layers, full of intrigue and double meanings. The style is as a Restoration mystery but it also discusses the value of art and men's attitude to women with some excellent damning put downs of both sexes. The religious, political and social issues of 1694 (the dawn of the Age of Reason) are examined and the chauvinism of the time is expressed by Mrs Talmann (Anne Louise Lambert) who acidly chides her father for cataloging her mother as the least of his assets: `a house, a garden, a horse, a wife, the preferential order'. An arrogant draughtsman (Mr Neville, played with suitable conceit by Anthony Higgins) is commissioned by Mrs Herbert (Janet Suzman) to sketch 12 drawings of her husband's house and gardens in exchange for reluctant sexual favours. The precise orders of the draughtsman are thwarted and misplaced objects start to appear in the etchings, as he is a stickler for detail and will persist in depicting exactly what he sees (`I try very hard never to distort or to dissemble'). Mr Neville soon becomes embroiled in the strange goings on in the garden, and the political and sexual machinations of Mr Herbert's friends and family. Mr Talmann (a wonderfully priggish Hugh Fraser, unrecognisable as Hastings in ITV's dramatisations of Agatha Christie's Poirot) is persuaded that the drawings are evidence of a physical liaison between his wife and the draughtsman, whilst she illustrates the more sinister interpretation of witness to the murder of her father. Ultimately the women are shown to have had the upper hand and Mr Neville to have been a mere pawn in their schematics, with his fulfilment of their true purpose to sire an heir. The film demands repeated viewing to pick up on its nuances and to see other perspectives, and I particularly appreciated the exploration of what we see may not be what it seems. There are plenty of visual treats including a colourfully rich display of the gardens complete with living statues, and a pomegranate, the symbol of eternal life and passion, being used to demonstrate the blood of the newborn. The atmosphere is deliberately cold, emphasised by the fixed camera positions that keep the protagonists at a distance from the viewer, with mainly restrained performances in outrageous costumes, accompanied by Michael Nyman's brilliant musical score. This very accessible Peter Greenaway film is both original and rewarding, and though not as well known as his later works such as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, it is a great introduction to his exceptional art (as is Drowning by Numbers). It is my personal favourite not least due to two of its beautiful ingredients, namely the ever lovely Anne Louise Lambert (Picnic at Hanging Rock), and the backdrop setting of the lush scenic countryside with the gently rolling hills of East Sussex. The former proving long before the current crop of Hollywood stars that Australian actors make for some of the most versatile, and the latter (albeit exaggerated by the green filters and subsequently somewhat decimated by the 1987 hurricane) making very pleasant walking country. Incidentally Compton Anstey in the film is actually Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells (on the East Sussex/West Kent border). The grounds (including the added attraction of the `Enchanted Forest') are open to the public (the house is private and was up for sale in the summer of 2000 at around £600,000). There are none of the obelisks so prominent in the film but the uniform yew hedges remain. I can recommend it as a great place to visit, especially with children. Curiously copies of this film in the UK in VHS PAL format were available from BlackStar but have been deleted since 8 May 2001. Their Video Hunt service could be used or try contacting the distributor, Artificial Eye Film Company Ltd.

Reviewed by Galina_movie_fan 9 / 10 / 10

Master's Smile

The first Peter Greenaway's feature "The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982) - is absolutely delightful, devilishly clever (just imagine the best Agatha Christy's mystery with all sorts of clues and suspects but without Poirot or Ms. Maple to explain in the end whodunit and why. You are on your own to try to figure out - everything you need to know is right there), and funny (Yes, Greenaway can be funny!) art film - the perfect example of an art film. It combines the elements of social satire with murder mystery, meditates on the power of art and role of an artist, studies family drama and mothers – daughters love and understanding, perfectly wraps it in sensual pleasure - and what the pleasure it is. I know I will watch it again because it is a feast for eyes (I've seen big budget movies that looked plain comparing to this one shot on the limited funds), ears (Michael Nyman wrote one of the best score ever for this film) and for brain - there are mysteries and puzzles in every frame and in every dialog. There is couple of Greenaway's thoughts on his first film and on the films that influenced him from the interview that was published in L'Avant-Scene Cinema", No 333, October 1984: "Majority of my films may be viewed on several levels. Thus, in "The Draughtsman's Contract" there was the desire to open the symbolism of plants and fruits, to study the connections between the aristocrats and the common people, the conflicts between the worlds of gentlemen and of servants. With my films, I hope to generate interest, to stimulate imagination, to wake feelings... I consider that 90% of my films one way or another refers to paintings. "Contract" quite openly refers to Caravaggio, Georges de la Tour and other French and Italian artists... Before the work on the film began, I did not explain to film crew what I wanted, but I showed them five European films: "Fellini's Casanova", "The Last Tango in Paris" by Bertolucci, "The Marquise of O" by Eric Rohmer, "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" by Jean-Marie Straub and, most importantly, "Last Year at Marienbad" by Alain Resnais which has been the most influential film for me."

Reviewed by Terrell-4 9 / 10 / 10

"Your significance, Mr. Neville, is attributable to both innocence and arrogance in equal parts." He understands this too late

We're in post Restoration England in 1694, and at a country estate filled with condescending, witty, superficial creatures dressed in heavy satins and lace, with chalk dusted cheeks, painted cupid lips and beauty spots, and wearing magnificent high wigs with cascading curls down to the waist...and that's just the men. In their midst is Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins), a talented, successful and arrogant artist whose father, we learn later, was a tenant farmer. He is engaged by the lady of the estate, Mrs. Herbert (Janet Suzman) to draw 12 views of the estate as a present for her clod of a husband, who will be away on business for the next 15 days. Mr. Neville declines. The unhappily married Mrs. Herbert increases his fee. Mr. Neville again declines. Mrs. Herbert offers him her intimate pleasure along with the fee. At that, Mr. Neville agrees. A contract is prepared which spells out Mr. Neville's exact requirements for the 12 views and Mrs. Herbert's contractual obligation for his pleasure. In the course of these two weeks the detailed views will be drawn, pleasure will be taken, Mrs. Herbert's daughter, Mrs. Tallman, will offer a contract of her own and we will learn a bit about heirs and impotency. The absent Mr. Herbert will return, but as a corpse discovered in the estate's moat. I have no doubt that Peter Greenaway knew exactly what he was doing with The Draughtsman's Contract. Me? I know what I think happened...probably. I like this movie immensely. Discussing the meaning behind Greenaway's films like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, or Prospero's Books or The Draughtsman's Contract, is almost a small industry among film students and certain cineastes. A good place to start this sort of discussion, however, is not with "Greenaway was aiming at this..." but with "I think Greenaway was aiming at this..." That "I" language makes the speaker own his or her opinions, and almost invariably decreases the "Izzat so?" quotient. That's a positive. What I know is that I think The Draughtsman's Contract is a mannered, magnificent puzzle of a film, where everyone speaks in complete sentences. It's stuffed full of elegance, precision, disconcerting oddness, uncomfortable relationships, hidden motives, ego, style, art, sex, eye burning, murder and ambiguity. When this is all stirred together with Greenaway's imagination and ability to create disconcerting and beautiful visions, what more could a person want? Well, perhaps a story that moves from plot point to plot point, all clear and tidy, and with an ending that leaves us satisfied and happy. If that's so, then Greenaway is not for you. Better stick with Michael Shayne, Private Detective (another movie I like a lot). "Your significance, Mr. Neville," says one important character, "is attributable to both innocence and arrogance in equal parts." His arrogance doesn't allow more than contempt for those privileged, condescending, shallow people he now is surrounded by during these two weeks. His innocence keeps him from considering the possibilities of what he sees but doesn't see. He is a man whose lovemaking is brutally self-centered and as mannered as his conversation, with his conversation continuing during his lovemaking, "You must forgive my curiosity, madam, and open your knees." Even so, we begin to feel a little uncomfortable for him. Almost as important to the plot is that Mr. Neville draws exactly what he sees. But what does he see? A window that is open when it should be closed? A ladder against a wall? A jacket on a bush when there had been a sheet? A pair of riding boots? It all has a point, but some of it is pure Greenaway. What is, after all, the point of the countertenor...or of the naked statue who is not a statue...or, for that matter, of the 13th drawing? How sure are we of the significance of the three pomegranates...or the last scene where we witness a slobbering bite of pineapple? I don't know, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Janet Suzman and Anthony Higgins carry us along in great style. Almost as important are Anne-Louise Lambert as Mrs. Tallman, Mrs. Herbert's daughter, and Hugh Fraser as Mr. Tallman. The movie is gorgeous to look at, painterly in its compositions and without, in my opinion, a dull moment. All that clever, mannered dialogue sounds straight from a Restoration melodrama. The Draughtsman's Contract is a wonderful movie. The best version is the Zeitgeist DVD release. It's been carefully restored, is anamorphic and has several interesting extras, including an introduction to the film by Greenaway.

Read more IMDb reviews


Be the first to leave a comment