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.
Cast and crew
|Cast:||F. Murray Abraham