Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nightwatching (2007)

Today and tomorrow I'm taking a look at a pair of Peter Greenaway films that tell the same story from both a fictional perspective and a factual perspective. The films are sold separately and together. The best way to see them is together. First up the fiction Nightwatching.
This is Peter Greenaway's story about Rembrandt and the painting of The Nightwatch. Greenaway is convinced that with in the painting is the key to a murder that Rembrandt stumbles upon. As Rembrandt paints his picture his career and his life unravels.

As a huge Greenaway fan I've been disappointed by most of Greenaways films over the last few years. Pillow Book, Eight and a Half Women disappointed me. The Tulse Luper films are much better but too cerebral to fully connect to. In all honesty this is the most alive film and most "emotional" film Greenaway has made in 20 years, since Drowning by Numbers.(Greenaway makes films that are intentionally not going to make you feel, he wants to make you think). This is thanks to two things, first Greenaways best writing of his career. Here is a film where people interact like real people.They talk like real people, even when they break the fourth wall, they are living breathing characters. The other reason this works is because Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) is so good that he takes Greenaways lines and makes them real. he is of course aided and abetted by the rest of the cast, but ultimately this is a film about Freeman and he makes the most of it.

I really liked this film. When I put the original import DVD in to check to see how it loaded up (the menus and such are in Russian) I suddenly found I was 45 minutes into the film before I knew what was happening. The film is so easy to fall into, it unlike almost anything Greenaway has done before. It just goes, sucking you along because it's a great story.
At the same time it's also very complex and it was clear that I was missing things. Greenaway has managed to pack the film with so many ideas and details that you can't catch them all on the first go through. Several times I realized I missed a reference or a line earlier on... Which means I've seen this a couple of time now trying to catch it all. (However don't worry the drama is the thing here, the ideas just deepen everything)

If you want to see a real life murder mystery this is a must see. Needless to say if you like Greenaway's films its a must see. Its also worth seeing if you just like beautiful movies(it all looks like paintings).

One of the best of Greenaway's films.

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