The Belly of an Architect

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The Belly of an Architect
DVD cover
Directed by Peter Greenaway
Written by Peter Greenaway
Starring Brian Dennehy
Chloe Webb
Lambert Wilson
Music by Wim Mertens
Cinematography Sacha Vierny
Edited by John Wilson
Distributed by Hemdale Film Corporation
Release dates
Running time
120 minutes
Country United Kingdom / Italy
Language English

The Belly of an Architect is a 1987 film drama written and directed by Peter Greenaway, featuring original music by Glenn Branca and Wim Mertens.

The movie stars Brian Dennehy and Chloe Webb and contains numerous references to the work of the 18th century French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


The American architect Stourley Kracklite has been commissioned to construct an exhibition in Rome dedicated to the architecture of Etienne-Louis Boullée. Doubts arise among his Italian colleagues to the legitimacy of Boullée among the pantheon of famed architects, perhaps because Boullée was an inspiration for Adolf Hitler's architect Albert Speer.

Tirelessly dedicated to the project, Kracklite's marriage quickly dissolves along with his health. His physical and social ruin in some way corresponds to the decline of his idol Boullée, who remained relatively forgotten until the twentieth century.

Kracklite becomes obsessed with the historical Caesar Augustus after hearing that Livia, the wife of Augustus, supposedly poisoned him. Kracklite assumes that his own wife, Louisa, has tried to do the same due to his increasing stomach pains.

However, she informs him that she is pregnant nearly at the same time that he finds out she has sexual connections with a younger co-organiser of the exhibition.

He later finds he actually has a stomach cancer and is to die shortly. Film ends at the scene of opening ceremony which Kracklite is not attending but watching cowardly at the moment Louisa gives birth to their child. Kracklite then commits suicide.


Director Greenaway's visual technique heightens Kracklite's alienation. There are few close-up shots of the other actors beside Dennehy, who himself is dwarfed by the dominance of the Roman architecture surrounding him.

Greenaway's trademark historical reenactments also compose a major theme: many visual images of the film appear to replicate major 18th Century works of art and architecture. In addition there are subtle references to Isaac Newton and the law of gravity, perhaps alluding to Kracklite's own inability to escape the physical laws of mortality.



  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Belly of an Architect". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 

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