Peter Greenaway

Drowning By Numbers

Drowning by Numbers is a story about three women, all with the same name, Cissie Colpitts, each from different age groups, who have something in common; they each murder their husbands by drowning them. They escape punishment from this by consenting to the needs of an amorous coroner, Madgett. Madgett’s young son, Smut, tells us about different games, each of them rather odd.

The film has a wonderful surreal feel to it. For instance, a man and a woman on bicycles collide with two dead cows, but it hardly perturbs them. Throughout the film there are the numbers 1 to 100 placed in ascending order on display in some peculiar positions. It’s a fascinating riddle.

“When I first started to make films there was a shared feeling among underground filmmakers to make non-narrative cinema. (…) I used number and alphabet counts – universal systems as alternatives to the anecdotes of narration. It could produce arid results. However, I began to feel I was denying myself what I really wanted to do – which was to tell stories.” (Peter Greenaway)

This title is part of the Dis Voir, Scripts by Peter Greenaway.

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