The Draughtsman's Contract

1982, Comedy/Drama, 1h 48m

32 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Smart and utterly original, The Draughtsman's Contract is a period piece that marks the further maturation of a writer-director with a thrillingly unique vision. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Set in a richly exaggerated 17th-century England, Peter Greenaway's witty, stylized, erotic country house murder mystery catapulted him to the forefront of international art cinema in 1982. 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.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The Draughtsman's Contract

Audience Reviews for The Draughtsman's Contract

  • Oct 08, 2015
    The Draughtsman's Contract has everybody clever in an odd way. I cannot make out what it is about. This is neither irritating enough to make me dislike the film nor intriguing enough to stimulate a rewatch. Would recommend only to those who enjoy the exercise of interpretation; it is not really comical or sexy enough for a casual view.
    Super Reviewer
  • Jul 03, 2009
    There are a lot of good things I can say about this film. The costumes and setting are gorgeous, and all of the performances are great - most of all Anthony Higgins, who is not only masterful in his role but wears Restoration costume as if he'd been born to do so. However, despite enjoying the first two thirds of the film I can't say I was especially enamoured of the ending section, possibly because much of it went over my head. Maybe I'll watch it again sometime and see if I understand it better.
    Kylie B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2008
    Seductive cinematic puzzle, visually rich with deception, both of fact and motive, permeating the texture. Performances are uniformly excellent, while the historical setting is amongst the most vivid committed to film. Michael Nyman's beautifully crafted score contributes greatly.
    Super Reviewer
  • Nov 10, 2008
    This viewer obviously lacked the historical knowledge or the cinemaphile's love of abstract symbolism to appreciate this. The film was far too obscure for my tastes. A sketch artist agrees to a personal services contract with an aristocrat (sort of a "friends with benefits" arrangement) and finds himself set up to take the fall for a murder. A most unpleasant affair that was not sweetened in any way. No skin and little bedroom action of the most chaste variety. The costumes were lavish, the wigs extravagant, the dialog witty, but the story was nearly incomprehensible to this poor viewer. A whodunit in which no one knows, nor do they seem to care. Or maybe it is that everyone in the story knows, but still no one cares. This viewer is beyond caring. Mr Neville will still take the fall. And what was the purpose of the movable statue? Who knows? Another time waster one should stay away from unless in possession of the requisite knowledge to appreciate the subtleties of the 17th century costume drama with an artsy flair.
    Super Reviewer

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