Mise en scene: Secret Lairs

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover made in 1989 is a romantic crime drama written and directed by Peter Greenaway, starring Richard Bohringer as the cook, Michael Gambon as the thief, Helen Mirren as his wife, and Alan Howard as her lover. The film explores a range of unspeakable events taking place in an expensive French restaurant during dinner caused by the irrational and revolting behaviour of Albert Spica the English gangster noted in the title as ‘the thief’. Forced to come along, his wife Georgina reluctantly sits at the table accompanied by Spica and his associates. On one night she locks eyes with a man, Michael, across the room and their silent attraction seemingly innocent at first turns into a dangerous sensual affair. During every meal they have Georgina leaves to meet her lover in the bathroom and other places whilst the oblivious Albert dines with his gang. A few spine-chilling moments occur as Albert almost catches them out, building the anticipation for an extraordinary ending. The intensity of brutality and torture is expressed in the beginning as the opening scene shows man being stripped of his clothes in the street whilst Spica and his gang smear excrement over him and left him with the dogs. Although in contrast to the end scene, it might not appear as extreme since the act of cannibalism is distinguished; however it gives the viewers a taste of what’s to come. The film is considered a dark comedy as Tobias explains: “While Greenaway could rightfully be accused, at times, of being a bloodless schoolmarm, Cook, Thief infuses its withering class comedy with moments of real sensuality and emotion, like green shoots poking through arid ground.”(tobias,

Fig. 1 The impressive appearance of the set designs and Jean-Paul Gaultier’s extravagant costumes give a theatrical ambiance throughout the film and it is interesting to see how the colours on the clothes of the characters alter in correspondence to where they are. For instance, Georgina wears a vibrant red dress during dinner but as she walks into the bathroom it turns white to suit the surrounding. I can appreciate the stylistic approach Greenaway has taken; it has the effect of influencing the audience’s mood and captivates their attention to explain the emotions the characters might be feeling. For example the rich red at dinner mirrors Albert’s violent and animalistic behaviour but also reflects the sexual attraction between Georgina and Michael as they rendezvous in the hallways.


Mise en scene: Secret Lairs


The camera movements encourage a build-up of anticipation throughout the entirety of the film. The slow tracking shots keep the viewer locked and waiting to the point where you want something to happen as Rovi explains: “The film is at once
funny and horrific, and those who are not used to Greenaway's peculiar style might be ev en disgusted or shocked; however, one might mention Sacha Vierny's brilliant camerawork, Jean-Paul Gaultier's gaudily stylized costumes, and Michael Nyman's somber, pulsating music, which will haunt the viewer long after the film's end.” The music is

almost unbearable towards the end as the repetitiveness begins to haunt you even after the film has ended as Rovi noted. The high screams of the boy Pup is embedded into the music which creates a restless atmosphere, keeping the audience on edge.


Mise en scene: Secret Lairs


(Tobias, Scott 1989)

 http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-cook-the-thief-his-wife-and-her-lover,67146/

illustrations:  Fig 1 http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?um=1&hl=en&sa=N&tbo=d&biw=1241&bih=606&tbm=isch&tbnid=czVX3XZAh1_U 9M:&imgrefurl=http://users.skynet.be/chrisrensonmakemovies/cook.htm&docid=0qt_0U7r20s52M&imgurl=http://users.skynet.be/chrisrensonmakemovies/cook5.jpg&w=461&h=294&ei=SujKUN27GImm0QXU0YFQ&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=605&sig=1088802 78313870617828&page=1&tbnh=137&tbnw=207&start=0&ndsp=16&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:88&tx=80&ty=76 Fig 2. http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?um=1&hl=en&sa=N&tbo=d&biw=1241&bih=606&tbm=isch&tbnid=AQ9zJEyiQf5dM:&imgrefurl=http://mattymunday.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html&docid=lyGXXVfnPVNryM&imgurl=http: //3.bp.blogspot.com/_uAXsnSBzSYo/SwQpN8ghHJI/AAAAAAAAAWg/eiqAZmMaczs/s1600/thief%252Band%252B lover.jpg&w=853&h=480&ei=CsLKUK7NHsjB0gXvt4DgCA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=837&vpy=147&dur=392&hovh= 167&hovw=296&tx=105&ty=58&sig=108880278313870617828&page=3&tbnh=133&tbnw=230&start=44&ndsp=26 &ved=1t:429,r:56,s:0,i:261