Set in a richly exaggerated 17th-century England, Peter Greenaway’s witty, stylised, erotic country house murder mystery catapulted him to the forefront of international art cinema. Adorned with intricate wordplay, extravagant costumes and opulent photography, Greenaway’s first narrative feature weaves a labyrinthine mystery around the maxim “draw what you see, not what you know.” An aristocratic wife (Janet Suzman) commissions a young, cocksure draughtsman (Anthony Higgins) to sketch her husband’s property while he is away—in exchange for a fee, room and board, and one sexual favor for each of the twelve drawings. As the draughtsman becomes more entrenched in the devious schemings in this seemingly idyllic country home, curious details emerge in his drawings that may reveal a murder.
Bolstered by a mesmerising score by then-newcomer Michael Nyman and stunning cinematography by Curtis Clark, The Draughtsman’s Contract is a luscious cinematic banquet for eye, ear and mind. (Peter Greenaway, UK, 1982, 104 min.)