Watch Drowning by Numbers
- 1 hr 58 min
Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 British film directed by Peter Greenaway that explores the complexities of human relationships through three generations of women in a small seaside town. The film is a dark, witty, and eccentric exploration of love, desire, and death with a unique visual style that blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
The story follows three women, Cissie Colpitts (Joan Plowright), her daughter Madgett Colpitts (Juliet Stevenson), and Madgett's daughter Smut (Joely Richardson), whose lives are intertwined in mysterious and unexpected ways. Each woman stays aloof, withholding key information from others, and all three share a tendency to gain their final freedom through acts of murder.
The film opens with a game of numbers played by two sisters, Cissie and Missus (a non-speaking Dawn Archibald), in which they take turns reciting random numbers until they reach a predetermined number, at which point they must both jump into the sea. This seemingly bizarre game sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is full of strange sights and sounds that jar the senses.
The first act of the film centers around Cissie, a widow who is obsessed with drowning. She spends her days diving into the sea with a stopwatch, timing how long it takes for her to resurface. When her husband's body is discovered in the sea, she decides to avenge his unfaithfulness by drowning every man whose name ends in the letter 'S'.
Madgett, Cissie's daughter, is introduced in the second act. A frustrated wife and mother, Madgett is having an affair with an undertaker named Smut, who is played by the same actress who plays Madgett's daughter. Madgett is tired of living in the shadow of her mother and decides to take control of her life by drowning her husband, Jake (Trevor Cooper), and convincing Smut to take the blame.
The third act of the film revolves around Smut, Madgett's daughter, who is a precocious teenager struggling with her sexuality. She is infatuated with an older man named Bellamy (Bernard Hill), who coaches her in the art of swimming. When she discovers that Bellamy is a serial killer, she decides to help him continue his murder spree by selecting the victims.
Throughout the film, Greenaway employs his unique visual style, which includes heavily stylized compositions that are full of visual puns and references to art history. His use of mirrors, reflections, and numbers adds to the surreal and dreamlike atmosphere of the film. The score, composed by Michael Nyman, is a playful and hypnotic mix of classical and electronic music that perfectly complements the film's off-kilter tone.
Overall, Drowning by Numbers is a dark and whimsical exploration of human relationships and the lengths people will go to achieve their desires. The film's complex relationships, twists, and turns keep viewers engaged from start to finish, and the stunning visuals and score make it a cinematic experience unlike any other.
Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 58 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2.