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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece or mess?
You either love Peter Greenaway's films or hate them. They take much more effort than the usual Hollywood fare, and many folk can't stand films they can't grasp instantly.
Drowning by Numbers is a mixture of metaphor, allegory and narrative shot with immense style in elaborately constructed and richly-coloured sets. The biggest plot thread is the murder of their...
Published on 6 Oct 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film, but could not enjoy it
I had seen this film many years ago and wished to re-visit: The description said that this version of the the film had English audio with Polish subtitles, which could be turned off.
In fact the English audio was very muted and there was a Polish commentary superimposed.
I tried to watch the first 20 min.
I could not enjoy the film and sent it back
Published 4 months ago by Pagliacco


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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece or mess?, 6 Oct 2000
By A Customer
You either love Peter Greenaway's films or hate them. They take much more effort than the usual Hollywood fare, and many folk can't stand films they can't grasp instantly.
Drowning by Numbers is a mixture of metaphor, allegory and narrative shot with immense style in elaborately constructed and richly-coloured sets. The biggest plot thread is the murder of their partners by three generations of women. This isn't crass US TV real-life drama. This is funny, startling and utterly absorbing cinema.
Woven into this is an array of cryptic sub-plots with some unsettling themes and a couple of horrifying denouments.
If you like your plots on a plate, you won't like this film. But if you like to sit back, absorb, and wait for the realisations to come to you slowly (maybe weeks later), this is a very satisfying and absorbing film indeed.
The cinematography, the ambience, the careful pace and direction - not to mention the soundtrack - are really rather extraordinary.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasingly weird, 27 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Greenaway's films are always watchable for the cinematography, but in this one you can actually follow the story too. The plot is fairly simple but is padded out with descriptions of peculiar games that Madgett, the Suffolk coroner, and his strange son Smut invent to pass the time. Smut also celebrates any violent death (whether roadkill or drowned husbands) by painting a number at the scene and letting off fireworks. Yellow paint for Tuesdays, red paint for Saturdays (Tuesday is winning, being the best day for violent deaths). You can also try to count the ascending numbers from 1-100 that are placed in each scene. I only saw about half of them - some are well hidden.
There isn't a DVD version of the film available in the UK at the moment, but the Australian DVD (with UK FilmFour logo!) is region 0, so will play on any DVD player, and is probably the best bet for picture quality.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, 27 Jan 2004
By 
Very few films have the vision and originality of Drowning by Numbers. Apart from being beautifully filmed and containing a fantastic collection of old English childrens' games, this film is erotic, heartbreaking and funny. Trevor Cooper's outstanding performance is remarkable for its portrayal of a man building his own downfall. Juliet Stevenson is excellent as are all the acast. I defy anyone to predict what happens from scene to scene. This is film making for thinking people. I saw it first on TV by accident and had to get the video. A DVD release would be fantastic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film, but could not enjoy it, 20 Mar 2014
By 
Pagliacco (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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I had seen this film many years ago and wished to re-visit: The description said that this version of the the film had English audio with Polish subtitles, which could be turned off.
In fact the English audio was very muted and there was a Polish commentary superimposed.
I tried to watch the first 20 min.
I could not enjoy the film and sent it back
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3.0 out of 5 stars A dip in cold water, 25 May 2014
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This review is from: Drowning By Numbers DVD [Region 2 Import] (DVD)
When I saw this film 20 years ago I thought it was one of the best, cleverest films I've ever seen. It's still very clever, and achingly beautifully shot, but there's something sterile about it. I can see why my coldly intellectual 18 year old self might love it, and now that I'm a bit more roadworn and experienced it seems emotionally thin. What the Americans would call 'sophomoric.' It doesn't have the vigour of The Draughtsman's Contract, far and away my favourite Peter Greenaway film. It also seems extraordinarily easy to drown people. 1, 2, 3 and they're gone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Old favourite and hard to find, 10 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Drowning By Numbers DVD [Region 2 Import] (DVD)
It was good to find this. The package was a bit daunting as it was all in German but irt was a high class package. The film plays in English and if I brush up my German, I will be able to read the enclosed booklet.

Great buy,
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5.0 out of 5 stars Drowning by Numbers, 20 Mar 2013
By 
Ian Frearson "Reynard" (Derby England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drowning By Numbers DVD [Region 2 Import] (DVD)
This film should be a must for all lovers of good cinematography. It is well cast, well made and beautifully finished.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Death and the Joys of Trainspotting, 4 Feb 2011
By 
Greywolf (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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A darkly surreal comedy about three women, three murders and a coroner forms the basis of one of director, Peter Greenaway's, most satisfying films to date. This funny, quirky, visually lavish film was made with funding from Channel 4, back in the halcyon days when they supported such artistic innovation, before the onset of Big Brother and other cultural atrocities.
Peter Greenaway is England's own David Lynch. Both men began as painters rather than film-makers. Both retain a strong sense of visual design that is clearly evident in their films. Both encourage a stylised, non-realistic approach from their actors, openly embracing the artificiality of the medium. Both take an elliptical, philosophical approach to film-making. Both employ surrealist humour, often juxtaposed with shocking or grotesque imagery. Both have long-standing relationships with composers whose work is a key element in their films (Angelo Badalamenti with Lynch, Michael Nyman with Greenaway). Both polarise audiences into those who love their work and those who hate it. All of these traits are perfectly displayed in 'Drowning by Numbers.'
The film centres around three women, a grandmother, mother and daughter, all called Cissy, their variously unsatisfactory husbands and, more especially, their growing relationships with the local coroner, Madgett, played by the great Bernard Hill, who is called in to investigate the husbands' deaths. Their story unfolds against some of Greenaway's most elaborate and beautifully staged sets and exquisitely filmed locations. As one would expect with Greenaway, the images on screen are gorgeous to look at.
The incidental characters are the most endearing in any of Greenaway's films. Madgett's young son, Smut, creates wonderful and bizarre games such as 'Dawn Card Castles,' 'Hangman's Cricket,' and 'Sheep and Tides,' in which you tether sheep along the sea shore and note how they react to the incoming and outgoing of the tides. And then there's my personal favourite, the skipping girl who names the stars.
Numbers occur throughout the film, which presents a count from 1 to 100, with numbers sometimes appearing on various props, on the backs of runners, or in dialogue from the characters. Having watched the film several times, I always find myself drawn into the game, attempting to spot all the numbers. I haven't succeeded yet. Why are the numbers there? Are they important? I have no idea. For me, they're just an additional element to the overall fun of watching the film. Fun may seem a strange word to use in reference to a film about multiple murders, and one that does include dark moments and images, but fun it is. Maybe it's just my peculiarly warped sense of humour. Actually, I think it's more to do with Peter Greenaway's peculiar genius.
Some dismiss Greenaway's films as pretentious, arty nonsense and it's easy enough to see why. They will never be to everyone's taste. Personally, as a painter myself, as a lover of the surreal, and of cinema that presents vastly more interest than the average Hollywood blockbuster, I rate Peter Greenaway, along with David Lynch and Lindsay Anderson, as one of my all-time favourite directors, and 'Drowning by Numbers' as one of his finest films.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I just wish it would come out on DVD!, 5 Sep 2003
By 
Michael Channon "shonkyhonky" (SE London) - See all my reviews
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Now, this is really worth a proper DVD release - if only they would do it. It is the best film of my life (not over yet, but it would be hard to beat it). I don't know why - perhaps it is the atmosphere of an English country side that you don't normally see (ie by the beach), or the obsurd and weird practices of the country folk (ie skipping & counting stars, numbering dead things...). Maybe it's the beautifully crafted music adapted from Mozart (whom I can't stand, but this I love). Or perhaps it's the characters, particularly Smut, who was a kid I would have loved to have as a school friend. Bizarre, weird and totally off the wall - he's my kind of friend.
I just feel right at home, which maybe you shouldn't watching a movie about murdering people, but I do feel that. It is so... so.... brilliant!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greenaway at his best ..., 3 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Peter Greenaway's art cinema is often criticised - the undergraduate's favourite he is seen as pretentious and faux-sophisticated. Drowning by Numbers suffers from Greenaway's usual over-direction but is redeemed by having a strong, if strange, narrative, interesting characters, and a wonderfully painterly cinematography. Those interested in Greenaway should start with this very approachable, enigmatic and oddly affecting film.
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Drowning By Numbers DVD [Region 2 Import]
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