“A Peter Greenaway Film” are four words that strike fear into the hearts of most cinema-goers, determined as he has been since Prospero’s Books to make some of the most unwatchable films of the last two decades. Nightwatching is a bit of a return to earlier form but still remains cinema marmite – you’ll either love it (I did) or hate it (the two others who watched it with me didn’t).
Nightwatching has an interesting idea at its centre – what if Rembrandt hid an accusation of murder within his most famous painting “The Night Watch”? Around this is built not so much a narrative as a series of scenes reflecting on the construction of the picture and the life of Rembrandt, as well as the fictional accusation.
It’s a good twenty-five minutes too long and the production values sometimes betray its budget, but it’s curiously watchable. The lack of narrative for once doesn’t get in the way (it would be difficult to place too complex a plot into the film without loosing focus) and it never looks less than gorgeous.