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The Draughtsman’s Contract

Though seemingly a comedy of manners taking place in the country home of a rich man, Herbert, there is an underlying viciousness of these rich denizens that foreshadows coming upheavals. It is the end of the 17th century.

Though seemingly a comedy of manners taking place in the country home of a rich man, Herbert, there is an underlying viciousness of these rich denizens that foreshadows coming upheavals. It is the end of the 17th century.

Film has fine costumes, florid headpieces for men and lovely surroundings on the big estate. Well-lensed, with a fine limpid narration that switches from observation of this landed class to a sort of foreboding tale of murder.

Herbert is almost estranged from his wife and goes off for two weeks of carousing. His wife beseeches a known draughtsman and landscape painter, a guest, Neville, to stay and make 12 drawings of the estate to surprise her husband. He refuses but finally says yes if the contract includes daily sexual dalliance with Mrs Herbert. It is accepted.

The daughter, still without a child and oblivious to her husband and his effete ways, also begins to dally with the shrewd, talented Neville.

On the day Neville is to leave, Herbert is found dead in the moat. Suspicions are aimed at Neville for it is felt he may have somehow given clues to the murder in his drawings.

The Draughtsman’s Contract

UK

  • Production: BFI/Channel 4. Director Peter Greenaway; Producer David Payne; Screenplay Peter Greenaway; Camera Curtis Clark; Editor John Wilson; Music Michael Nyman; Art Director Bob Ringwood
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1982. Running time: 108 MIN.
  • With: Anthony Higgins Janet Suzman Anne Louise Lambert Hugh Fraser