Following the 400th anniversary of the painter's birth, this film script re-reads Rembrandt's most celebrated painting, The Nightwatch. Nightwatching is the first of a series of films dedicated to the golden age of Dutch painting.
was created in 1642, in Amsterdam, at a time in his life when Rembrandt was at the height of his glory. However, he had reluctantly accepted the commission to paint the Amsterdam Militia, a work which marked the loss of Rembrandt, for he became the witness and victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by the protagonists of the painting. In the manner of his film The Draughtsman's Contract
, Peter Greenaway carries out an investigation through listening to the “soundtrack” of the painting in order to let us discover the evidence of a murder at work. The photomontage assembled in the book by Greenaway is taken from Rembrandt's The Nightwatch.
“There is a conspiracy painted in Rembrandt's The Nightwatch
. The sinister title of the painting alone suggests we should look for it. And we should listen too to the sound-track of the painting. Amongst all the hullabaloo, the dogs barking, the drummer drumming, the clattering of thirteen pikes, the hallowing of Banning Cocq, the loudest sound is of a musket shot. You can see the flame of the firing, bursting forth behind the head of the foreground shining figure in yellow, who carries the head of his halberd where his prick should be, and whose belly is groped by the shadow of the hand of his companion. Where did the bullet go? […] We should investigate, and when we do, in the end, with a little ingenious adventuring, we can plainly see that the whole gaudy endeavour of this painting of Rembrandt's Nightwatch
(…) is going to stir up trouble. It is, in that tradition where great painters are known by their Christian names, Rembrandt's great subversive act—his J'accuse
. […] The painting is a demonstration of murder with the murderers all picked out in detail. How delicious is the thought that Rembrandt got paid, and got paid quite well for revealing the truth about that part-time home-guard, Amsterdam burgher-party playing at soldiers in the Golden Age of Holland's greatest fifteen minutes of Warhol
Peter Greenaway (born, 1942 in Newport, Wales, lives and works in Amsterdam) trained as a painter for four years, and started making his own films in 1966. He has continued to make cinema
in a great variety of ways, which has also informed his curatorial work and the making of exhibitions and installations in Europe from the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice and the Joan Miro Gallery in Barcelona to the Boijmans van Beuningen Gallery in Rotterdam and the Louvre in Paris. He has made 12 feature films and some 50 short-films and documentaries, been regularly nominated for the Film Festival Competitions of Cannes, Venice and Berlin, published books, written opera librettos, and collaborated with composers Michael Nyman, Glen Branca, Wim Mertens, Jean-Baptiste Barriere, Philip Glass, Louis Andriessen, Borut Krzisnik and David Lang. His first narrative feature film, The Draughtsman's Contract
, completed in 1982, received great critical acclaim and established him internationally as an original film maker, a reputation consolidated by the films, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover
, The Pillow Book
, and The Tulse Luper Suitcases