The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

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Movie Info

According to this story of a woman not so much scorned as ignored, life in late 17th-century England among the landed gentry was not what it appeared to be on the surface. Mrs. Herbert (Janet Suzman) is desperate to find a way to please her husband and win back his errant affections, and to that end, she coerces the draughtsman Neville (Anthony Higgins) into doing some drawings of the Herbert estate while her husband is away for a few weeks. She means to surprise her husband with the drawings, in the hope that he will be appropriately grateful. Neville does some coercing of his own, refusing to cooperate unless Mrs. Herbert bestows him with requested sexual favors -- she agrees, but is not happy about it. Mrs. Herbert's daughter (Ann Louise Lambert), in turn, seduces Neville -- her relationship with her husband Talman (Hugh Fraser) has become boring. Meanwhile, Talman has never liked Neville and the two of them have more than one witty altercation. Fortunately, Neville is leaving soon but when that day comes, Mr. Herbert's quite dead body is found floating in the water of the moat. Neville leaves anyway, though suspicion starts to center on him because people feel his drawings have something to do with Herbert's death. Unfortunately, Neville comes back to visit after some time has gone by, and the suspicions are anything but subsided as inhabitants of the manor begin to consider a course of action.

Cast

Anthony Higgins
as Mr. Neville
Janet Suzman
as Mrs. Herbert
Anne Louise Lambert
as Mrs. Talmann
Neil Cunningham
as Mr. Noyes
Hugh Fraser
as Mr. Talmann
Dave Hill
as Mr. Herbert
David Gant
as Mr. Seymour
David Meyer
as The Poulena
Tony Meyer
as The Poulena
Nicholas Amer
as Mr. Parkes
Suzan Crowley
as Mrs. Pierpont
Lynda Marchal
as Mrs. Clement
Michael Feast
as The statue
Steve Ubels
as Mr. Van Hoyton
Ben Kirby
as Augustus
Sylvia Rotter
as Governess
Joss Buckley
as Mr. Porringer
Mike Carter
as Mr. Clark
Geoffrey Larder
as Mr. Hammond
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Critic Reviews for The Draughtsman's Contract

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (3)

Artificial in the extreme, it may nevertheless be Greenaway's most naturalistic and easygoing film.

Jul 5, 2007 | Full Review…

What we have here is a tantalizing puzzle, wrapped in eroticism and presented with the utmost elegance. I have never seen a film quite like it.

Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

It shows the director at his best and most playful, and it's a strange delight.

Feb 21, 2008 | Full Review…

A puzzle book for intellectual aesthetes.

Jan 22, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

One of the best, most original and diabolical films to come out of England.

Aug 22, 2007 | Rating: A | Full Review…

ravishingly beautiful

Apr 6, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Draughtsman's Contract

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.

Robert Brogan
Robert Brogan

Super Reviewer

½

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
Kylie B

Super Reviewer

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.

hawk ledge
hawk ledge

Super Reviewer

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.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

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