Drowning by Numbers


Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 British-Dutch film directed by Peter Greenaway It won the award for Best Artistic Contribution at the Cannes Film Festival of 1988

Contents

  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Music
    • 31 Track listing
  • 4 In popular culture
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Plot

The film's plot centres on three married women — a grandmother, her daughter, and her niece — each named Cissie Colpitts As the story progresses, each woman successively drowns her husband The three Cissie Colpittses are played by Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson and Joely Richardson, while Bernard Hill plays the coroner, Madgett, who is cajoled into covering up the three crimes

The structure, with similar stories repeated three times, is reminiscent of a fairy tale, most specifically 'The Billy Goats Gruff', because Madgett is constantly promised greater rewards as he tries his luck with each of the Cissies in turn The link to folklore is further established by Madgett's son Smut, who recites the rules of various unusual games played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions Many of these games are invented for the film, including:

  • Bees in the Trees
  • Dawn Card Castles
  • Deadman's Catch
  • Flights of Fancy or Reverse Strip Jump
  • The Great Death Game
  • Hangman's Cricket
  • The Hare and Hounds
  • Sheep and Tides

In Drowning by Numbers, number-counting, the rules of games and the repetitions of the plot are all devices which emphasize structure and symmetry Through the course of the film each of the numbers 1 to 100 appears in sequence, often seen in the background, sometimes spoken by the characters

The film is set in and around Southwold, Suffolk, England, with key landmarks such as the Victorian water tower, Southwold Lighthouse, and the estuary of the River Blyth clearly identifiable

Cast

  • Joan Plowright - Cissie Colpitts
  • Juliet Stevenson - Cissie Colpitts
  • Joely Richardson - Cissie Colpitts
  • Bernard Hill - Madgett
  • Jason Edwards - Smut
  • Bryan Pringle - Jake
  • Trevor Cooper - Hardy
  • David Morrissey - Bellamy
  • John Rogan - Gregory
  • Paul Mooney - Teigan
  • Jane Gurnett - Nancy
  • Kenny Ireland - Jonah Bognor
  • Michael Percival - Moses Bognor
  • Joanna Dickens - Mrs Hardy
  • Janine Duvitski - Marina Bellamy

Music

Drowning by Numbers
Soundtrack album by Michael Nyman
Released 1988
Recorded 1988
Genre contemporary classical music, Minimalist music, film score
Length 44:48
Label Virgin, Caroline
Director Michael Nyman
Producer David Cunningham & Michael Nyman
Michael Nyman chronology
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
1988
Drowning by Numbers
1988
La Traversée de Paris
1989
Allmusic

On Greenaway's specific instructions, the film's musical score by Michael Nyman is entirely based on themes from the slow movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, bars 58 to 61 of which are heard in their original form immediately after each drowning Greenaway alerted Nyman to the potential of this piece in the late 1970s and had previously used it as material for part of the score of his The Falls and for "The Masterwork" Award Winning Fish-Knife and Tristram Shandy "Trysting Fields" is the most complicated use of the material: every appoggiatura from the movement, and no other material from the piece, is used

The album is the tenth by Nyman and the seventh to feature the Michael Nyman Band

Track listing

  1. "Trysting Fields"
  2. "Sheep and Tides"
  3. "Great Death Game"
  4. "Drowning by Number 3"
  5. "Wheelbarrow Walk"
  6. "Dead Man's Catch"
  7. "Drowning by Number 2"
  8. "Bees in Trees"
  9. "Fish Beach"
  10. "Wedding Tango"
  11. "Crematorium Conspiracy"
  12. "Knowing the Ropes"
  13. "Endgame"

The back cover of the album booklet has a large number "58" Fred Ritzel has pointed out that the Skipping Girl played by Natalie Morse reaches number 58 in her counting game These are subtle ways of drawing attention to the key bars of the Mozart piece

In popular culture

  • Olivier Gillet, designer of the Mutable Instruments range of electronic musical instruments and synthesiser modules, named alternative firmware for his Tides synthesiser module Sheep, in reference to the game featured in the film Subsequently, alternative firmware called Bees-in-the-Trees, for the Mutable Instrument Braids synthesiser module, and Dead Man's Catch, for the Mutable Instrument Peaks module, have been published
  • Ambient electronic musician Yuri Tománek, based in Adelaide, Australia, releases recordings under the name Drowning by Numbers
  • The How I Met Your Mother episode "Bad News" uses a numbering device inspired by the film, with the numbers counting down to the titular "Bad News," when character Marshall learns that his father has died

References

  1. ^ http://wwwboxofficemojocom/movies/id=drowningbynumbershtm
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Drowning by Numbers" festival-cannescom Retrieved 2009-07-26 
  3. ^ Cook, Stephen Drowning by Numbers at AllMusic
  4. ^ Michael Nyman, sleevenotes to Drowning by Numbers CD, Virgin Records CDVE23, 1988
  5. ^ Fred Ritzel, "Planspiele, zum Verhältnis von Bild und Musik bei Peter Greenaway und Michael Nyman", 1993 in German

External links

  • Drowning by Numbers at petergreenawayorguk
  • Drowning by Numbers at the Internet Movie Database
  • Drowning by Numbers at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Drowning by Numbers at AllMovie


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