NIGHTWATCHING

Nightwatching by Peter Greenaway is the screenplay for his film conceived for the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt, a re-reading of this most celebrated painting,  “The Nightwatch” created in 1642, in Amsterdam, at a time in his life when Rembrandt was rich and at the start of his world fame. However, he had reluctantly accepted the commission to paint the Amsterdam Militia, a work which marked the beginning of the end of his good fortune, for his life went into decline after this painting, when its 32 participants conspired to destroy him.

In the manner of his film, The Draughtsman’ s Contract, Peter Greenaway carries out an investigation through listening to the sound-track of the painting in order to let us discover the evidence of a murder at work.
The photomontage assembled in the book is taken from the Rembrandt’s “The Nightwatch”, and is presented by Peter Greenaway in such a way as to name all the characters of the film.
“There is a conspiracy painted in Rembrandt’s  “The Nightwatch”,. The sinister title of the painting alone suggests we should look for it. And we should listen too to the sound-track of the painting. Amongst all the hullabaloo, the dogs barking, the drummer drumming, the clattering of thirteen pikes, the hallowing of Banning Cocq, the loudest sound is of a musket shot. You can see the flame of the firing, bursting forth behind the head of the foreground shining figure in yellow, who carries the head of his halberd where his prick should be, and whose belly is groped by the shadow of the hand of his companion. Where did the bullet go?
We should investigate, and when we do, in the end, with a little ingenious adventuring, we can plainly see that the whole gaudy endeavour of this painting of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch(…) is going to stir up trouble. It is, in that tradition where great painters are known by their Christian names, Rembrandt’s great subversive act – his “J’accuse”.
The painting is a demonstration of murder with the murderers all picked out in detail. How delicious is the thought that Rembrandt got paid, and got paid quite well for revealing the truth about that part-time home-guard, Amsterdam burgher-party playing at soldiers in the Golden Age of Holland’s greatest fifteen minutes of Warhol good fortune. (Peter Greenaway)

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