Greenaway's Nightwatching courts controversy
Peter Greenaway's new film Nightwatching tries to unravel the mysteries of the famous painting of the Musketeer Militia which is known as Night Watch. It looks at the story of how it came to be commissioned and presents the idea that Rembrandt not only ridiculed the Militia in the painting but also hid secrets and allegations there too, and that he was ultimately ruined for painting it.
While the film is showing in Venice there are unconfirmed reports that several people walked out of the screening of the film, a film which the story then points out is filled with full-frontal nudity, graphic sex scenes and strong language. Yet there's not so much concern about his interpretation of history.
Without saying as much it appears Teletext, or the uncredited source of the story, are suggesting that people were leaving because of these facets of the film, however go to any screening, particularly an industry screening, and you'll see people arriving late and walking out all through the film.
This can often mean there's another film on they want to see and this is a gap filler or a teaser for going to see the full film, it can also simply mean bad timing and manners, it doesn't always mean the film is bad, and it certainly isn't a reflection on specific content – that would remain a mystery until the people in question actually make comments about the film.
Despite these lose connections and uncredited story from Teletext, controversial the film most definitely is. According to Reuters the Peter Greenaway defends his ideas behind the painting:
“Of course there have been lots and lots of theories, but we would like in this film to offer you another theory...There's no such thing as history, there's only historians. I can't prove to you every single fact, but you can't disprove it either.”
Interesting point. He goes on to talk about the mysteries hidden inside the painting, as Reuters report:
...at least 51 "mysteries" in the painting, including the young girl or dwarf in a crowd of men, the significance of the musket being fired, whether the two main men were having an affair and whether the man in the background, with one eye showing, was a self-portrait by the artist.
The film suggests that after Rembrandt decided to make the painting this way and the Militia saw it, they then set out for revenge and sought to ruin his reputation and also to blind him. Greenaway seems fascinated as to why Rembrandt then descended into poverty some fifteen years later.
Anything by Peter Greenaway is worth watching, even just for the sheer difference from everything else on film, and couple with this controversial and intriguing topic, Nightwatching is definitely one I'm keen to see.