Goltzius And The Pelican Company

Trust veteran leftfield British filmmaker Peter Greenaway (‘Prospero’s Books’) to turn art history into a pageant of Bible-inspired depravity, head-spinning moral uncertainties and multi-layered high-def visuals. Exploring the notion that ‘every new visual technology gets into bed with lechery’, Greenaway presents famed sixteenth-century Dutch engraver Hendrik Goltzius trying to persuade the aristocratic Margrave of Alsace to stump up for the latest printing press, with the intent of producing a new ‘private edition’ of the Old Testament. As a tantalising preview, Goltzius has a theatrical troupe act out the book’s salacious highlights. But the actors’ dedicated exploration of countless sins tests their would-be patron’s liberal attitude to its limits while inflaming his darkest desires. ‘Amadeus’ Oscar-winner F Murray Abraham offers a game contribution as the Margrave, though he’s outshone by Ramsey Nasr’s Goltzius, who sets the film’s tone of urbane, intellectually provocative mischief-making. It’s very nearly classic Greenaway, let down by rather dogged pacing and an international cast sometimes uneasy in English (hence English subtitles). Still, it seems churlish to cavil at a film that’s thoroughly illuminating, surprisingly relevant, and wears an impish smile.

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday July 11 2014
Duration: 128 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Greenaway
Screenwriter: Peter Greenaway
Cast: F. Murray Abraham
Giulio Berruti
Vincent Riotta
Halina Reijn

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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P C

Wow... it's a while since I have seen any Greenaway films. The last one I can recall seeing which was the Baby of Macon, with the gang rape scene at the end left a sour taste in my throat. Evenso, when I saw this title by chance, I thought I would see what he had done. I was captivated. The beautiful varied, and layered imagery, the urbane and often witty script, the mix of violence, sex and ritual, the stirring music, the cast of mainly European actors with the core of Nasr and Murray Abraham and the additon of subtitles in case you had difficulty with the varied accents worked to reinvigorate my interest in this unique director's work. Reviewers have generally given this film a 3 star rating. I think it is at least 4 stars, and maybe more. I saw it in the small BFI studio, and even that wasn't full. I am not really surprised, but really, it's a film to go and see and marvel at.