The Cook, the Thief, His wife & Her Lover (1989


Poster In 1989, Peter Greenaway directed a romantic crime drama movie. The film is not only recognisable with its strong use of violent and nude scenes but with its breathtaking formalism which communicates a mix of emotions. Albert Spica, an English gangster goes to a French restaurant every night, accompanied with his gang members and wife who is cheating on him and having sex in the toilet, restaurant kitchen with the help of the restaurant cook and staff. Eventually, this leads to violent revenge from the thief. The film is rich in terms of visuals. The clever use of camera from the side of the room,allows the viewer to enjoy and visually taste the splendidness of the sets. the use of colour differs from room to another and gives a different mood, for instance the red in the dinning room (still1) evokes energy and action as the room is crowded and adds to its dynamism. Moreover, the costumes colours change from room to another taking the colour of the environment. "The film takes place in approximately about four locations – all around or

within this restaurant. What makes each of these locations completely different is that while they all are within this one bigger location they are all lit completely differently" (Robinson, A 2011). The acting of Albert is monstrous. Humiliating the kitchen staff, customers (still2), beating his wife make him a true gangster, his loud voice which could be heard from the other side of the restaurant makes him noticeable and his surrounding frightened. His way of eating shows how greedy and outrageous he is. "Michael Gambon gives a menacing portrayal as a vulgar gangster with a penchant for rich food. He is a regular customer at an elegant restaurant where he and his cronies, and his unhappy wife, wine and dine while exchanging tales of crime and debauchery." (Dabell, J 2003).


The film has succeeded in many ways to evoke its dark gloomy style with bold colours, theatrical lighting and its suspenseful story to communicate a message.

Still2 However, the message that the film wants to communicate seems to vary from a viewer to another. The film shares a dark humour, political points, social issues, cheating, domination, love of power. The film's morale is read and interpreted differently depending on everyone's situation or background. It's undeniable that the film points at human greed through the love of food and how careless and ruthless the stronger could be with the weaker. "But I am not sure Greenaway is simply making an Identikit protest movie, leaving us to put the labels on the proper donkeys. I think "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" is more of a meditation on modern times in general. It is about the greed of an entrepreneurial class that takes over perfectly efficient companies and steals their assets, that marches roughshod over timid laws in pursuit of its own aggrandizement, that rapes the environment, that enforces its tyranny on the timid majority--which distracts itself with romance and escapism to avoid facing up to the bully-boys." (Ebert, R 1999).

Bibliography: Robinson, A (2011) Available at:; [ Accessed online on 12/12/2012].

Dabell, J (2003) Available at:; [ Accessed online on 12/12/2012]. Erbert, R (1999) Available at:; [ Accessed online on 12/12/2012].

Illustrations: Poster: ook_the_Thief_His_Wife_and_Her_Lover/7735301 Still1:,67146/ Still2:

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