Drowning by Numbers (1988)

The great death game.

Original Title : Drowning by Numbers
Director : Peter Greenaway
Writer : Peter Greenaway
Genre : Drama
Country : UK
Language : English
Producer : Peter Jaques , Kees Kasander , Denis Wigman
Music : Michael Nyman
Photography : Sacha Vierny
IMDB ID : 0092929
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poster for "Drowning by Numbers" by Peter Greenaway (1988)
Drowning by Numbers (1988) - Peter Greenaway


┬Joan Plowright Cissie Colpitts 1
┬Juliet Stevenson Cissie Colpitts 2
┬Joely Richardson Cissie Colpitts 3
┬ Bernard Hill Madgett
┬Jason Edwards I
┬Bryan Pringle Jake
┬Trevor Cooper Hardy
┬ David Morrissey Bellamy
┬John Rogan I
┬Paul Mooney II
┬Jane Gurnett Nancy
┬ Kenny Ireland Jonah Bognor
┬Michael Percival I
┬Joanna Dickens Mrs. Hardy
┬ Janine Duvitski Marina Bellamy
┬Michael Fitzgerald I
┬Edward Tudor-Pole Mr. 71 Van Dyke
┬Edward Tudor-Pole Mr. 71 Van Dyke
┬Arthur Spreckley Sid the Gravedigger
┬Arthur Spreckley Sid the Gravedigger
┬ Roderic Leigh The Policeman
┬Vanni Corbellini The Hare
┬Jose Berg Skipping Girl's Mother


Three generations of women, a mother, her daughter and her niece - all called Cissie Colpitts - experience dissatisfaction with their husbands and cause them to drown. The local coroner, an inveterate game player called Madgett, is drawn into a plot to disguise the murders. The story is paced by the numbers one to one-hundred, which appear sequentially through the film.


Games One woman in three bodies. Games about death, with death as a rule, and as a consequence. Life as this game and vice versa. The scoring of the game, the ruling of the script according to numbers. Sequential skipping through the numbers as a way of adumbrating the game to tell a story. Another masterpiece from Greenaway, his most accessible in my view. But that makes it a lesser work compared to his others, because the story is perfectly comprehensible. One can see how his notion of structured visual allegory with narrative footnotes starts to emerge here. The latest I have seen at this writing is The Pillow Book where this is all so much more elaborate and integrated into the narrative. But this film still charms. I wish I could personally thank the financier.
poster for "Drowning by Numbers"
380 x 525
Drowning by Numbers (1988) - Peter Greenaway