Film:The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Posted by Sam Hayes On Tuesday, November 17, 2009
On the agenda today was a film from 1989 starring Helen Mirren and Micheal Gambon : The Cook,The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Directed by Peter Greenaway. I saw a comment from Phil on Jolanta's Blog saying this film was not easily enjoyed, which struck me as strange as I enjoyed it easily. I'm not just saying that either, I really liked this film, and I do plan to re-watch it.

Firstly, the set design and the colours were brilliant, from the very beginning of the film there was a sense of surrealism, beginning outside in English city street lit by many different colours, inside to the kitchen with it's relentless green glow and the restauraunt with the menacing red light seeming to stream from every corner of the room. All of these colours were there for a reason, I interpretted it as 'good' and 'bad' or perhaps 'powerful' and 'weak'. The restauraunts red glow showed power from the guests (Especially Albert) and glutony, as well as a menacing atmosphere, all coming from the head of the table, the evil husband. The toilet is lit in a bright white light, as if it has no character, apart from when the menacing husband steps in and the red light streams into the room, almost as if he brings the atmosphere from the restuaraunt with him.

One thing I really liked is the ongoing build of hatred the audience is meant to feel for Albert. From the very beginning when he is degrading a chef is what I assumed was dog shite, to his racist taunts, disgusting mannerisms and misogynist behaviour towards his wife. I knew from the very beginning, as most people probably did, that by the end of the film the man would get his comeuppance. My favourite (In a bad way of course) line of his was:

"I think those Ethiopians enjoy starving. Keeps them thin and graceful."

I can see why the film may unsettle some people,but I found the sex scenes in it fine as they weren't put there for the sake of sex but to develop the plot and to show the extent of the wife's betrayal of her husband. The entire set design was incredible, every object seemed so grande and rich, the huge paintings hung on the wall drew my attention, as well as all the carcasses that features throughout the kitchen and in the meat vans.

I thought the story was great, it had a good degree of suspense and the ending, althought quite sickening, was a good reflection of Albert's anger and attitude back at him. The soundtrack was very unique, and quite haunting. I liked the fact that they built the soundtrack into the physical film, with the choir boy in the kitchen singing (Although after a while his voice did start to grate.) I'm sure this was my favourite film of the unit, I enjoyed it more than Alien! Thanks Phil, I probably would never have seen it otherwise.

3 Responses to 'Film:The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover'

  1. tutorphil said...'> 17 November 2009 at 23:11

    Hey Sam - I'm pleased you enjoyed it - I enjoy it too, though I can easily see why people find it a more difficult watch - Jolanta, for instance! One of my second years, Tom Beg, is making it his personal mission to view some of cinema's most extreme offerings - check out his blog at - scroll down until you find posts for 'Caligula' etc...

    I find Greenaway's film mesmerising - and I love those slow pans and processional feeling - very stately; I also greatly enjoy the score by Michael Nyman; he also did the haunting score for Jane Campion's The Piano - another highly eroticised film that is well worth a slice of your hard-pressed time. Regarding your scenes, I certainly think you could make more theatrical use of lighting and composition - after all, you're underground, so you're going to have to take some artistic liberties... another film you might want to check out to help drive the 'hostility' of your spaces is The Descent, directed by Neil Marshall - a potholing horror film!

    Sometimes, I think people wonder at the 'usefulness' of viewing movies as part of their degree studies - perhaps your last comment is proof of the importance of 'giving away' experiences that people would otherwise swerve or non-elect to undertake. I see movies as being like innoculations - they stay with you - a kind of filmic immune system that lends strength and rigor. Anyway, I've got plenty more celluloid treats lined up for you lot - so watch this space!


  2. tutorphil said...'> 18 November 2009 at 00:26

    I didn't say how perceptive your analysis of the film was - it was! :-)


  3. Jackie said...'> 18 November 2009 at 10:59

    Hi Sam, I found that the sex scenes to me did not show the 'extent of the wife's betrayal', but instead showed the extent of the husbands the sex scenes, it appeared that Georgina was for the first time in ages, able to find some peace.


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I'm a student studying CG Arts and Animation at the University for the Creative Arts, I'm living in Kent.

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