I’m not going to be so gutsy as to say that I’ve understood all of Peter Greenaway’s films, but I’ve always respected them. Sometimes I even enjoyed them.
Nightwatching is one of the more (for lack of a better term) difficult ones. It is very stagey, even dabbles in being dull. But before it can lose you, it does something strange.
It tells the tale of Rembrandt while creating his Night Watch masterpiece, hinting that the painting is actually a coded message at a covered-up murder conspiracy. This is hardly a CSI episode, though, as much of the screentime is dedicated to Rembrandt’s love-life, lengthy dialogues with characters who may or may not be real and plenty of “tableaux.”
Here’s what I love about Greenaway. He can make nearly any sequence seem really important, and only when it’s done do you step back and think, “hey, what the heck is actually going on in this story?”