Greenaway paints his Rembrandt
by Gabriele Barcaro
07/09/2007 - Sixteen years after Prospero’s Books, Peter Greenaway returns to compete at the Lido. Judging by the enthusiasm with which the first screenings were greeted, his latest film seems likely to please everybody, public and press alike. And perhaps also the jury, who are a few hours (and a couple of films) away from their verdict. Nightwatching [trailer] is the last European co-production they will watch as part of the competition.
Not unaccustomed to the cosmopolitanism of film production, the Welsh director placed his trust in a group of financial backers from Holland (The Kasander Film Company), Britain (Kasander Productions), Poland (Yeti Films) and Canada (No Equal Entertainment), in order to reconstruct the story of a painting, Rembrandt's “The Night Watch”, which is very well-known but remains mysterious at the same time.
With the Tulse Luper saga behind him, the Welsh director now returns to a more traditional mode of film narration, which does not abandon his usual recurring obsessions: his love of intrigue, for example.
“There are 51 mysteries in the painting”, he said at the press conference, remembering his first encounter with the great Dutch painter, and the reasons why he became a pop icon, just like his most famous paintings. “I saw 'The Night Watch' when I was a student, I trained as a painter and I’ve never understood why I became a film director. Rembrandt is not my favourite artist but the world loves him because he is both democratic and republican, post-Freudian, modernist and not a misogynist… He is the ideal painter, we associate with him the greatest qualities which we would like to associate with ourselves”.
On screen, Rembrandt is played by the surprising Martin Freeman, the English actor who appeared in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.
The unique thriller aims to shed light on the mystery surrounding the painting (considered by many a not particularly well concealed "j’accuse" against the great powers of the period), uncovering in the images traces of bloodshed. “This is also what happens to the protagonist of Blow Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni,” said the director.
Having always believed in the primacy of images over words, Peter Greenaway has once again followed Jean-Luc Godard’s maxim: “once you’ve got the backgrounds sorted, forget about the script”. Unlike his other recent attempts, however, Nightwatching has a certain accessibility (which recalls older works such as The Draughtsman's Contract) and a formal elegance which could not fail to impress the judges.
Filmed in Amsterdam, Poland and Wales, Nightwatching is expected to be released in the Netherlands at the beginning of 2008. ContentFilm International will be in charge of international sales.
(Translated from Italian)