Film Reviews, Short Review

Drowning by Numbers (1988)


Peter Greenaway films at their worst are often hopelessly intellectual, cold, and over-conceptualised. At their best, when imbued with some sense of gut feeling as in his masterpiece The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, his work simply leaps off the screen. Drowning by Numbers threatens to tip towards the former, but finds itself firmly in the latter territory. Greenaway enjoys playing visual games with the audience, sometimes at the expense of exploring any actual ideas, but here the games form part of the film’s engagement with its viewers. Three women gradually kill off their husbands and convince the local coroner to hide the evidence as the film descends into maddening, blackly comic farce, and all the better for it.


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