Peter Greenaway:

Water Is All About Metaphorical Rebirth

Classical director of the world cinema, Peter Greenaway told the journalists of why he loves depicting water in his movies and why he prefers living at the waterside. Over the last 13 years the director of British descendance lives in Amsterdam and makes his movies in St. Petersburg and Venice.

Water is always very photogenic – whether it's a cloud, or ice, or the sea, or steam. You could always depend on exciting images – point one. Second, I think, you are absolutely right – it's a cleansing material, it's all about metaphorical rebirth, as well as physically to do with a naked body – it's another reason. If you think about it, we all are just bags of water walking around on land. I think, 5/6 of human body is made up of water, and, I think, 2/3 of the Earth surface is covered in water.

So water is ubiquitous, it's with us all the time. And therefore I've always made it characteristic the most important element of the movies. And numbers would be perhaps even more instinct argument. Because if I'm against narrative, I have to find some way to make structure, and there are many-many systems, I suppose, which are all about counting and numbering and cataloguing. I think all of my cinema are really some form of question of sorting out material and finding other structures in which to organize without really telling a story.

The cinema I propose is full of contradictions. I would certainly agree in whole by the idea that cinema is dying. I think we all should know that in various ways, especially you – members of laptop generation. Do you go to the cinema very often? No. There we are – here's the answer. So we've got to find new ways of doing things. But there's a part of me that still enjoys making old-fashioned films. I don't expect many people to ever look at them. But, given the opportunity, I want to be able to practice right across the world, very pluralistically.

So that's why indeed we are still practicing, I suppose, what could be described as certain forms of conventional narrative cinema. But if you've seen any of my films, they are hardly very orthodox. So we will be playing with screens on screens, and we will be playing with also devices that aren't really conventionally cinematic. We hope to have even more of huge amount of documentary footage of Eisenstein, so we will build that in as well. So it won't really look like a run-of-the-mill orthodox conventional film.

Roman Catholic say: give me a child of three years old and I've got him for life. Same way the cinema works on young imagination: very-very powerful. But I suppose all my films are really for children. All the best movies are home movies, and best home movies contain children. I don't know whether you have seen Drowning by numbers, which is basically about young lad called Smart who's interested in death. I think, if you look at my films from the beginning, if you ever saw Draughtsman's Contract, the children are young, and each film I make, the children get older and older and older. So probably about three films ago I have started everything all over again.

I think it parallels actually the major characters in each film. As I get older, my characters get older. But as a quite nice way, since I have four children, as the children have developed, so I found in a sense a metaphorical place for them also in a film. I think I'm really interested in education. A couple of nights ago we were showing a very early film of mine called H is for House, which is really basically about teaching children – not the alphabet, but the beginnings of linguistics. And, of course, it was an actual situation in my private life, so I put it into a film as well. And you might know, one of my film titles is the Baby of Makone. It's about the making and the destruction of a child saint. It was very unpopularily received, and I was accused of exploiting children – completely unfounded accusation.

A French poster to Peter Greenaway's film "Drowning by Numbers"

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