Drowning by Numbers
|Drowning by Numbers|
Drowning by Numbers film poster
|Directed by||Peter Greenaway|
|Produced by||Kees Kasander
|Written by||Peter Greenaway|
|Music by||Michael Nyman|
|Editing by||John Wilson|
|Release date(s)||10 September 1988|
|Running time||118 minutes|
The film's plot centers on three women — a grandmother, her daughter and her niece — each named Cissie Colpitts. As the story progresses each woman successively drowns her husband. The three Cissie Colpitts are played by Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson, and Joely Richardson. Bernard Hill plays the coroner Madgett, who is cajoled into covering up the three crimes.
The structure, with similar stories repeated three times, is reminiscent of a fairy tale, more specifically the Billy Goats Gruff, since Madgett is constantly promised greater rewards as he tries his luck with each of the Cissies in turn. The link to folklore is further established by Madgett's son Smut, who recites the rules of various unusual games played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions. Many of these games are invented for the film, including:
- Bees in the Trees
- Dawn Card Castles
- Deadman's Catch
- Flights of Fancy (or Reverse Strip Jump)
- The Great Death Game
- Hangman's Cricket
- The Hare and Hounds
- Sheep and Tides
Number-counting, game rules and the plot's repetitions are devices that emphasize structure and symmetry in Drowning by Numbers. Through the course of the film the numbers 1 to 100 appear in order, sometimes seen in the background, sometimes spoken by the characters.
- Joan Plowright - Cissie Colpitts
- Juliet Stevenson - Cissie Colpitts
- Joely Richardson - Cissie Colpitts
- Bernard Hill - Madgett
- Jason Edwards - Smut
- Bryan Pringle - Jake
- Trevor Cooper - Hardy
- David Morrissey - Bellamy
- John Rogan - Gregory
- Paul Mooney[disambiguation needed] - Teigan
- Jane Gurnett - Nancy
- Kenny Ireland - Jonah Bognor
- Michael Percival - Moses Bognor
- Joanna Dickens - Mrs. Hardy
- Janine Duvitski - Marina Bellamy
|Drowning by Numbers|
|Soundtrack album by Michael Nyman|
|Genre||contemporary classical music, Minimalist music, film score|
|Producer||David Cunningham & Michael Nyman|
|Michael Nyman chronology|
The musical score is by Michael Nyman, and is, at Greenaway's specific request, entirely based on themes taken from the slow movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364, bars 58-61 of which are heard in their original form immediately after each drowning. Nyman was alerted to the potential of this piece by Greenaway in the late 1970s and had previously used it as material for part of the score for Greenaway's The Falls and for "The Masterwork" Award Winning Fish-Knife and Tristram Shandy. "Trysting Fields" is the most complicated use of the material: every appoggiatura from the movement, and no other material from the piece, is used.
The album is the tenth by Nyman, and the seventh to feature the Michael Nyman Band.
Track listing 
- "Trysting Fields"
- "Sheep and Tides"
- "Great Death Game"
- "Drowning by Number 3"
- "Wheelbarrow Walk"
- "Dead Man's Catch"
- "Drowning by Number 2"
- "Bees in Trees"
- "Fish Beach"
- "Wedding Tango"
- "Crematorium Conspiracy"
- "Knowing the Ropes"
The back cover of the album booklet has a large number 58. Fred Ritzel has pointed out that the Skipping Girl (Natalie Morse) reaches number 58 in her counting game. These are subtle ways of drawing attention to the key bar of the Mozart piece.
- "Festival de Cannes: Drowning by Numbers". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
- Cook, Stephen. Drowning by Numbers at Allmusic
- Michael Nyman, sleevenotes to Drowning by Numbers CD, Virgin Records CDVE23, 1988
- Fred Ritzel. "Planspiele, Zum Verhältnis von Bild und Musik bei Peter Greenaway und Michael Nyman." 1993.  (in German)
- Drowning by Numbers at petergreenaway.org.uk
- Drowning by Numbers at the Internet Movie Database
- Drowning by Numbers at AllRovi