The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)

  • A young aristocratic woman walking her dog in a French-style park
  • Two men with dyed skin and red-painted lips wearing 17th century wigs
  • Two royally dressed aristocratic women settled in chairs as they are surrounded by their confidants
  • Aristocrats talking in two groups in the front yard of a big English castle

Newly remastered in 4K by the BFI National Archive, The Draughtsman’s Contract recently premiered at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival.

“Five stars. Greenaway’s arch tale of sexual and political manipulation has not lost its power to bewilder and compel…. has a singular brilliance.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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 mesmerizing 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.

1h 44m
Peter Greenaway
United Kingdom