Peter Greenaway Quotes

274 Quotes Sorted by Search Results (Descending)

About Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway CBE (born 5 April 1942) is a Welsh-born English film director.

Born: April 5th, 1942

Categories: Film directors, English people, Welsh people, Living people

Quotes: 274 sourced quotes total (includes 3 about)

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Words (count)342 - 170
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"What's so special about it?"
"I can -- your mother's dead."
"No we mustn't! She'll have us all audited."
"What do you mean -- Happy anniversary? It's not my birthday."
"… like us? Counting up the minutes -- have we spent half an hour together?"
"Then I think you have a choice -- please your mother or face criminal charges."
"I have always found them very reasonable --they don't change their minds when you aren't looking at them. Each one can always be relied upon to say the same thing."
"You weren't asleep then."
"Two lifetimes -- yours and mine."
"We must ask Kito to come over."
"No -- that's true. But it's an anniversary I shall always celebrate I shall always celebrate even if you won't. And you won't.
"Perhaps. I need writing. Don't ask me why -- just take out your pen and write your name on my arm -- go on."
"It tells you how to boil water. What expression to wear when you are eating eggs. How to starve. When to eat. What your first meal should be. What your last meal should be. It says more about death than eating and more about living than cooking."
"He spoilt it -- he spoke."
"Too many stupid people have it."
"That's all. Thank you. You may go."
"No -- but I have a feeling your mother was."
"Now you've opened your mouth, do you expect me to lose interest?"
"What are you -- some kind of addict? Is this where you come to..."
"Is that really all?"
"How safe are we here?"
"Have you read all of them?"
"No. If you don't read, are you safe?"
"You could spend a lifetime reading in here."
"And you would never know if she had feet."
"No -- it's not necessary for a bookkeeper to read all the stock."
"Raw sex is the last thing you are going to encounter in a Jane Austen woman."
Book #8: The Vesalius Anatomy of Birth. As it hits the water, it screams and spurts blood like a pierced heart -- as it sinks, there is a suggestion of entrails.
Book #10: A Book of Travellers' Tales. As it hits the water its pages detach themselves from the covers, which sink... and the pages form themselves into small paper boats that float away on the tide.
"There are only two subjects that matters, one is sex and the other is death, what else we could talk about it. And most the cinema talks all the time about sex and death. And my cinema deals with sex and death so... ¿what's the problem?".
"… and?"
"That sounds like a disadvantage."
"Georgie doesn't like babies do you Georgie? Some days, Georgie, I think you behave like a bloke."
"You have no right to be jealous of a woman who wants to be more of a woman by watching a man dressed up as a woman."
"Naked! So I can see no pranks and ruses."
"Money's not interesting -- too easy to get hold of."
"I was completely absorbed as to what would happen because anything was possible."
"To a man of honour that is no choice."
"Only from bad books."
"It was only a film."
"I wouldn't be so interested in her fingers."
"What quaint English. They make an unpredictable linguistic duo."
"Imagine you are sucking the little fingers of a lady... or... no, you wouldn't understand that -- since you'd never get that close to a lady -- who'd want to get that close to you for God's sake?"
"Complicated eh?"
"Does Albert read?"
"What else could there be?"
"Imagine a world without a fixed point."
"What days are those Albert? And what's it like?"
"What good are all these books to you? You can't eat them! How can they make you happy?"
"...and then?"
"Rubbish -- absolute rubbish!"
"I like sleeping. (after a pause) You were conceived in this bed."
"… and within five minutes I'd lost interest."
"What is your favorite book?"
"That's just the sort of remark you would make -- you'd just be intent on whipping it in, whipping it out, and wiping it on your jacket! Look at your jacket! Looks like a pig field! Your nails could do with a clean. Show me your nails! God! Why can't I have some bloody quality in my associates?"
"I once saw a film where the main character didn't speak for the first half hour."
The Endgame: "The object of this game is to dare to fall with a noose around your neck from a place sufficiently off the ground such that a fall will hang you. The object of the game is to punish those who have caused great unhappiness by their selfish actions. This is the best game of all because the winner is also the loser and the judge's decision is always final."
"A long white dress that starts under the breast and travels on interminably down -- so their legs are entirely mysterious -- they could have one leg or two inside that dress... A Jane Austen woman could be incredibly passionate inside that dress."
There are basically only two subject matters in all Western culture: sex and death. We do have some ability to manipulate sex nowadays. We have no ability, and never will have, to manipulate death.
The film begins with a visual list of eight and a half Japanese Pachinko Parlours filmed in several Japanese cities -- Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto.
The moistened thumb of the expectant reader has not yet marked the soft tissues of this lean clean smiling volume. Spread me, and break me open, for pleasure.
I've always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you've been, where you are, and where you're going -- in a sense it's three tenses in one.
The penis -- if you think about it -- is the most enterprising engineering feat imaginable -- a cantilevered structure, hydraulics, propulsion, pistons, compression, inflation, heat sensitive -- practically every engineering characteristic -- towers, draw-bridges, rocket-ships -- no man-made engineering structure to match it.
All my films are somewhat experimental, they are all, each one, taking a certain amount of risk, but there's always the basic assumption that we should be able to appreciate the cinema as much with the mind as we can through emotional empathy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
These buildings are just right for the excesses of post-modernism -- decorative, frivolous -- serving to obviously excite and attract -- every feature using the architectural vocabulary freely without too much regard for serious function -- open glass atriums and shining metals and expensive and artificial marbles, zany letterings and excess neon.
These ideas are present in all sorts of unrelated cultures -- the Easter Islands, Celtic mythology, Plato's Symposium with its notion that we are all originally hermaphrodite. We became too arrogant and so the gods split us down the middle, forcing us to spend our lives chasing our other half. If we start being arrogant all over again, God will come down and split each half in half, and it will take four people to assemble a fifth, making our lives peculiarly, desperately difficult.
It's so miserable and so easy to keep slamming Titanic -- I'll shut up.
The word for smoke should look like smoke -- the word for rain should look like rain...
Why illustrate a great piece of writing whose very advocacy and evocation and efficacy lies within its very existence as writing?
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
The range of human skin colours is quite narrow when you think about it -- and I do -- and subtle -- beige, pink, white, tan, taup...
Leaving slowly, / sucking in cold air round a warm tongue, / ennui synchronized to the pulse, / reports from a coiled trachea, / It is only irregular clocks...
Peter Greenaway
• "The Schultz Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
The pretence that numbers are not the humble creation of man, but are the exacting language of the Universe and therefore possess the secret of all things, is comforting, terrifying and mesmeric.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
A trembling and some laughter, / a squirt of pee, a spit, / whispers of the heart, / a smell, / the drift to sleep, / pursuit by Gods, / exposure of the bum, / mathematics ...
Peter Greenaway
• "The Schultz Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
To be an atheist you have to have ten thousand times more imagination than if you are a religious fundamentalist. You must take the responsibility to acquire information, digest and use it to understand what you can.
I am certain that there are two things in life which are dependable -- the delights of the flesh and the delights of literature. I have had the good fortune to bring them together and enjoy them together in full quantity.
A little gold and a little charcoal, / A little bone, a little wax. / A little alcohol, a little horror and a little gum. / A little ivory, / a little sulphur, / a little damp dust, / a sluice of fluids.
Peter Greenaway
• "The Vesalius Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
You should be allowed to rub out and start again, it means that you are human. The purists are tedious, they tell you a mistake is like an enduring black mark. Nonsense -- better to be human than some infernal machine never going wrong.
May I keep this book forever. May this book and this body outlast my love. May this book and this body love me as I love its length, its breadth, its thickness, its text, its skin, its letters, its punctuation, its quiet and its noisy pages.
I also think that everyone has an elitist approach to his own art, a complex knowledge of it, whether he is a clockmaker or an engineer. And I think it's perfectly legitimate to make use of this knowledge because it enriches the overall texture of life.
I loved Latin -- the grammar, the difficult tenses, the history -- but for some reason I was very bad at it, shamefully and blushingly bad at it. … In moments of stress the embarrassment of how bad I was at Latin -- a subject I loved -- really hit me. It was like being laughed at by someone you desperately loved.
It seems to me that the comprehension and enjoyment of the reader, as opposed to the viewer, is best served in printing this version rather than a slavish definitive transcription. Besides, what film is truly definitive? By the time you see the film it may very well be sub-titled, re-edited, shortened, even censored, and every film is viewed at the discretion of the projectionist, the cinema manager, the architect of the cinema, the comfort of your seat and the attention of your neighbour.
What initially attracted me to The Seventh Seal was that it had values and characteristics which I was familiar with in other art forms, most notably, the European novel and certain forms on English drama, and indeed, in relation to my rather academic interest in history -- not "history" in the normal sense, but history as a form of entertainment. It might be a very unfashionable view but I believe that history is an amazing bank or reserve area of plots, characterisations, extraordinary events, etc.
Blind eyes cannot read.
Investigation is never complete.
Orchestra: Anagram of carthorse.
Words reproduce themselves pleasurably too.
Shoes: gloves for the feet.
A hand cannot write on itself.
Itch to read, scratch to understand.
Cleverness: A predisposition to irritate excessively.
Delivery: A postal or natal event.
All this narcissism is rather boring, isn't it?
It is a most unexpected Earthquake in Geneva.
Benedictus bene dicap bene asian christian dominum nostrum amen.
Twenty-four pulleys, one hundred counterweights / two lenses, dark shadows...
Peter Greenaway
• "The Vesalius Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
How can an opera express this complicated question of bedsheets?
Whispering can be a rest from a noisy world of words.
Cinema: An illusion that can only satisfactorily happen in the dark.
I like a lot of glasses about -- it highers the tone.
Go on. Treat me like the page of a book. Your book.
Get the Titanic sailing correctly before you worry about the deck chairs.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
My personal obsessions are much more interesting to me than other people's.
Prospero has always felt most at ease in a study, surrounded by books.
Is this a book exhausted from too much reading? Or too little reading?
Men are so shit scared of female activities, especially if they are clandestine.
Nun 1: Sir, it is only a play... with music. Do not distress yourself.
It serves the purpose of not serving a purpose, surely quite a valid one.
We all live to a formula. Maybe the secret lies in keeping that formula secret.
Smut is a target for reconstructed cricketing accidents -- he is the Cricket Saint Sebastian.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
You can't write. That's not writing. It's scribbling. Distasteful scribbling. Why can't you write properly?
The pages are so harmonious in their proportion / disharmony in the contents is impossible.
Are these clues? Which ones are important? Which ones are incidental? Which ones are circumstantial?
Dots [...]: Small marks variously made to indicate infinity, hesitation, duplication, or lack of imagination.
Inspiration: A miasma originating in the head that pollutes the body and irritates good sense.
You can play lacrosse all over the world provided you know where the goalposts are.
Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.
Titus... he started well... soon became greedy... disembowelled on the Tiber steps... he's dead, died screaming...
A final splash plops … all water-movement ceases and the screen is a black velvet void.
Nun 2: (Very quietly) Sir, be grateful for the music. Most of us die in silence.
This is a book and a body that is so warm to the touch. My touch.
A is for Adam and E is for Eve. B is for bile, blood and bones.
Peter Greenaway
• Louis Andriessen & Jeroen van der Linden, "The Alphabet Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
It's precisely on the Internet that the majority of the writing is terribly bad and uninteresting.
Later this device of mirror and mirror-carriers will be developed and many changes rung from its possibilities.
Farewells can be both beautiful and despicable. Saying farewell to one who is loved is very complicated.
Nagiko, I am waiting for you. Meet me at the library. Any library. Every library. Yours, Jerome.
This book has neither the virtue of irony nor deserves the sympathy reserved for the truly mad.
I don't know what to say really -- except that you look immortal and I look bereft.
It's like Shelley. Like Werther. Like a Japanese Ophelia. Like a beautiful Oriental Lady in the Lake.
Take Mitchel here -- no -- on second thoughts -- don't -- because he's a crude little bugger.
If Good approved of his creature's creation, He breathed the painted clay-model into life by signing His name.
A series of ever-decreasing splashes drip and plop into black water... thus the beginning of the film is reprised.
Isn't that why people keep diaries -- to be read by someone else? Why would they keep them otherwise?
The book to end all books. The final book. After this, there is no more writing, no more publishing.
A man bringing himself, melody and mathematics into perfect and enviable proportions. / only more so, much more so.
Peter Greenaway
• "The Eisenstein Song"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, M is for Man, Music, and Mozart: A short film directed by Greenaway, to which the music was composed by Louis Andriessen.)
Blood: A red substance believed to be capable of supporting life but which in a theatrical drama invariably indicates death.
Painting: Once upon a time a painting was a two-dimensional representation; now it is anything its author thinks is appropriate.
I'm an excuse for medical experiments and art theory. You must get me out of here and out of the hospital.
I sit here for hours. It's like sitting amongst lighthouses, each lighthouse giving you a bearing on lost spaces of time...
This is where I begin to do the writing. I am now going to be the pen and not the paper.
Perhaps, sadly, in the end, cinema is only a translator's art, and you know what they say about translators: traitors all.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
Grief: An emotional experience often brought about by a great sense of loss. The subject of this loss is completely immaterial.
That comes from most people having an American film model in their heads which is nothing but a total illusionary masturbatory massage.
I have always had severe problems with Austrians. … Musical, churchy, uptight... nice legs... hypocritical... authoritarian... always insist their dustbins are very clean.
This drawing is three quarters ball, one quarter philosopher, which might be about the right space to keep a philosopher in his place.
No more. A puff of writing long gone. Is this the child pulling on the flying cloth of its mother's last worn dress?
Esmerelda, the grieving widow, continues to burn and scream. In our minds we rush to save her from the consuming flames. But cannot.
I think it is really important to be in some way provocative -- either intellectually or viscerally -- in the films one makes.
"French Cuisine. By Guillaume Rosart. Publisher Henri Simonel. In 1950 it cost me twenty francs -- about 2 pounds -- about 15 pounds now."
If every man is supposed to think of sex once every nine minutes, what on earth does he think of in the other eight?
Four soiled bedsheets sewn together to make a screen. One for spittle. One for urine. One for semen. One for blood. All for tears.
Only cinema narrows its concern down to its content, that is to its story. It should, instead, concern itself with its form, its structure.
A French critic referred to me as a gay pessimist, with gay used in its older sense, and talked of Cocteau in the same breath.
Are animals like car-crashes -- Acts of God or mere Accidents -- bizarre, tragic, farcical, plotted nowadays into a scenario by an ingenious storyteller, Mr C Darwin?
There is some comfort to be had in contemplating the folly of so many dead, don't you think? … and more comfort still in contemplating the continuity.
All this could be enough -- we would leave an Impressionist painting at this stage -- probably much earlier -- and leave it possibly with great satisfaction.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
In one of the rooms of the Fortuny Palace there are eight books from Prospero's Library. They are magical books. In many senses all books are magical.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Watching Water: A book, written to accompany an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 1993.)
Jerome never liked me -- preferred my sister who was a little fool excited by modern literature -- all swear-words and scatology -- before it became fashionable.
You know to make his rigid, tedious, boring paintings seem at least a little human, the Mondrian enthusiasts keep insisting that Mondrian was a great tango dancer.
Taup? What sort of colour is "taup"? It sounds like a Malaysian ground sloth encountered once every fifty years by one of the Attenboroughs wearing long socks.
Life is full of a thousand red herrings, and it takes the history of a civilisation to work out which are the red herrings and which aren't.
... there are tens of thousands of photographs taken here, all taken very patiently, because decay can be very slow.. Ten months for a human body... they say...
It's strange. In the last five minutes you have used my Christian name over and over again and never before. People I like learn my name too late.
I want to describe the Body as a Book, a Book as a Body, and this Body and this Book will be the first Volume of Thirteen Volumes.
Atlas, the man who carries the world, becomes the book of the maps of the world. An example of man, or God, into book. Few have that honour.
Lincoln: A politician who enjoyed the theatre and died because of its convenient darknesses. A celebrated make of car. A town in Lincolnshire, England. A certain colour green.
Americans don't understand what metaphor in cinema is about. They're extremely good at making straightforward, linear narrative movies, which entertain superbly. But they very rarely do anything else.
It is Vesalius' Anatomy of Birth -- a book of drawings and diagrams of human anatomy. Beautiful drawings but -- as the pages turn -- terrible in their frankness...
I married. I became a wife. I acquired a husband. I had a ceremonial wedding in style. Whichever way you say it -- it was bound to end badly.
Imagine a world where nothing is stable. In the West, we have three moving elements -- Air, Fire, Water -- but at least we can depend on the fourth.
Look, it was an accident. Five thousand accidents happen every day -- bizarre, tragic, farcical... they're Acts of God fit only to amaze the survivors and irritate the Insurance Company...
No Albert -- it's not God -- it's Michael. My lover. You vowed you would kill him -- and you did. And you vowed you would eat him. Now eat him.
This book and I have become indivisible. I have placed my feet on this book's last pages, confident of standing so much higher in the world than I ever stood before.
I was continually connected with the whole world and never got any rest. At the moment, I spend only a few hours weekly on the net, that's just better for me.
I cannot keep a clock or a watch. They stop on me. Why won't time stay peacefully on my wrist? Is time not interested in me any more because I am dying?
And I've also written a play called Miranda, about what happens afterwards on the ship on the way home. It's about what happens to innocence and how it has to be destroyed.
Peter Greenaway
• During the filming of Prospero's Books, quoted in an interview in American Film, Nov/Dec 1991
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Prospero's Books)
She picks up the baby and contemplates the Bonsai-bush, and, as we watch, in the growing half-dark, the Bonsai-bush flowers. On the black-and-white film, the thousands of flower-petals blush a deep red.
Each word is pumped up with consonant cholesterol. It's full of fat words. The pages cream with subcutaneous fat. New letters are gilded like showy teeth, making comprehension constipated and exorbitantly metalled.
This book is gaudy like a gilded cauliflower which smells so bad after a good hot water soaking, like hot chocolate sweetened with sugar beet / incompatibles blended incongruously to no purpose.
The large body of the swan wedged in the shattered glass of the car windscreen fills the film frame. Its head is bent back on itself in a parody of its orthodox gracefulness.
We wait -- it seems for minutes -- looking at the night sky. Then, suddenly breaking the silence and making us start with alarm and fear... there is a savage, heart-rending, gurgling scream.
There have been innumerable films about film-making, but Otto e Mezzo was a film about the processes of thinking about making a film -- certainly the most enjoyable part of any cinema creation.
... [I] would certainly like to work with Dennehy again. When he was presented with the script he didn't know me from Adam, and why should he, small-time eccentric, esoteric Englishman that I am?
It could be said now that all animals live in zoos, whether it is a zoo in Regent's Park, London or a Nigerian Game Reserve. Perhaps what's left to argue is only the zoo's quality.
Dawns and sunsets. The Magic Hour -- when the sun and the moon can be in the sky at the same time -- a magic and disturbing occurrence for a child. And for an adult.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
All this takes many clumsy and inexact word-descriptions to describe, but if we read paintings like we read books, it would not be such a hidden language for painting can effortlessly produce such elegant solutions.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
If you were not to be its victim, this book and body would amuse you with its arrogance. It would make you laugh. Because you were not its victim, you could feel no pain of betrayal.
It's sort of cathartic -- the naked exposure -- don't you think? You couldn't do it voluntarily -- could you? It's under duress -- so somehow legitimate. Circumstances beyond our control. I think I enjoyed that.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37 ...
Secret: A private matter whispered abroad and never kept to oneself. By naming it a secret, we immediately indicate its presence. If we really wanted to keep secrets, we would not have a name for them.
Galba... a miserable sort of man... bisexual... fancied mature slaves, especially if they had been a little mutilated... all his freed men had no fingers on the left hands... he's dead -- died screaming... in a cellar.
Jerome was dyslexic until he was twelve, before it became fashionable. And he broke every pair of glasses I bought him. He hated wearing glasses. He was good at breaking things. Especially relationships. Just like his father.
I never go to the cinema. I can't stand sitting in the dark with strangers -- all of us obliged to share the same emotional experiences -- it's too intimate. I like to be emotional in private.
It is an awesome sight, repeatedly drawn and painted. How long did it last, this Fall of Angels? Was it all over in an hour? Or did it take days, weeks, years? Is it still going on?
You see how even an illness can be romanticized. Tuberculosis got the treatment: Keats, the Lady of the Camellias, the foggy dew, and so on. We must make romantic literature out of cancer -- can you imagine that?
I would be curious about one of those Jane Austen women -- you know -- long-suffering, dutiful -- but all right in the end -- a plump 19th century type, five foot four, ringlets, brown eyes, long fingers.
Cinema is dead. I can give you a date - it died on the 31st of September, 1983, when the zapper or the remote control was introduced to the livings rooms of the world. Bang! That's the end.
Roy, this is my wife, Georgina Spica -- she has a heart of gold and a body to match... and I am Albert Spica and I have a heart of gold and a great deal of money to match.
Too late. Too late to retreat. Your heart is open. The book has got you. Your body is wide open. This rat of a book has invaded your privacy, worried its feeling into your entrails by every private passage.
Jean Renoir once suggested that most true creators have only one idea and spend their lives reworking it, but then very rapidly he added that most people don't have any ideas at all, so one idea is pretty amazing.
Alas, despite wing implants, feathers and wax, and carnal associations with swans, we will never grow wings. Alas, any true flight we make will always be externally assisted. Alas, the best we can do is fall and believe ourselves flying.
In practically every film you experience, you can see the director following the text. Illustrating the words first, making the pictures after, and, alas, so often not making pictures at all, but holding up the camera to do its mimetic worst.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
It can hardly be said that Greenaway is unaware of his demoniac cleverness, but he unearths the nuggets buried in his work in a spirit of generosity. They are not so much possessions to be admired as gifts to be shared.
About Peter Greenaway
• , in an interview with Greenaway in the Washington DC City Paper, 6 Apr 1990
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, About Greenaway)
The letters Z, O and O dominate the front entrance gates of a capital city zoo. They are made of glass and they tower up two giraffes high. They are the width of one elephant and the colour of bottled blue ink.
On the same day as I started to keep my own pillow-book -- I met my future husband for the first time. I was six, he was ten. We did not exchange a word. He had been hand-picked by my father's publisher.
It is the trajectory of a thrown stone. It follows the hump of a humped-back whale from nose to tail. It's bounded like a smooth, sheep-cropped, grassy hill. It is a graph-line through a grey, blue, and then a grey again, sky.
Sappho was a worshipper of the Aphrodite cult and on the island of Lesbos there were many cliff-jumpers. They all jumped. Some may say they flew in ecstasy. If only for nine seconds -- one second for each string of the lyre.
I don't have any particular wish to be polemical or didactic; I don't have a "message", but what I do thoroughly enjoy are those works of art, not necessarily in the cinema, but in the other arts as well, which have an encyclopaedic world.
Cosimo: It is only a play... with music? Does God say the same at every death? It is only a play... with music? When I die, will someone say the same? He was only a prince. He died. It was only a play... with music.
The Romans are very equivocal about this building. They call it the typewriter or the wedding cake... But whatever you think of it -- it gives you the most amazing views of Rome. It's like a box at the theatre at which Rome is the play.
The start of a film is like a gateway, a formal entrance-point. The first three minutes of a film make great demands on an audience's patience and credulity. A great deal has to be learnt very rapidly about place and attitude, character and intent and ambition.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Watching Water: A book, written to accompany an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 1993.)
Obviously, I am the cook. The cook is the director. He arranges the menu, the seating order of the guests; he gives refuge to the lovers; he prepares the repast of the lover's body. The cook is a perfectionist and a rationalist, a portrait of myself.
The predominant colour of the kitchen -- its walls, cupboards, floor, shelves -- with all the ancillary rooms -- pantries, larders, cold stores, and sculleries, is green -- Hooker's dark green, leaf-green, emerald, faded turquoise, and eau-de-nile -- like the colours of a dark wet jungle.
The world is in his cloak -- figures peer out of its folds -- mythological figures and snakes and pigs and flowers, naked fauns and heavy-breasted sirens and horses' heads -- they sprawl on the flagstones at his feet and peep out from under his arms...
All the material is fictional and develops its own eight and a half private, coelesced journeys, where, perhaps not unexpectedly, the females can run faster than the men and trade their freedoms by exhausting the male sexual fantasies and replacing them by some of their own.
Hadrian... as you know an architect of note... put a lot of faith in stones... died peacefully... planning a Temple to Wisdom... still, he's dead. Nero -- best not to talk about him -- burnt Rome, caused untold misery, deserved to die; died screaming in a summerhouse.
The moods of the dark night skies are variously represented like soft black velvet, like the shining black of a scarab beetle, like the patina-ed surface of Indian-inked paper, soft blotting-paper soaked in dark blue ink for forty days, like a black cat's fur shining in moonlight...
The floorboards point in parallel lines to a vanishing point that does not concern us -- somewhere beyond the opera house, across the streets, across the houses of the suburbs, all the way to a hypothetical single dot... on the sea's horizon. Far from this sour drama.
Counting makes even hideous events bearable as simply more of the same -- the counting of wedding-rings, spectacles, teeth and bodies disassociates them from their context -- to make the ultimate obscene blasphemy of bureaucratic insensitivity. Engage the mind with numbing recitation to make it empty of reaction.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
Where is a book before it is born? Does a book grow like a tree? Who are a book's parents? Does a book need two parents -- a mother and a father? Can a book be born inside another book? And where is the parent book of books?
One [film] is based on the Medea myth about a woman who kills her own child -- The Love of Ruins. It is almost a technical exercise to see if I can convince an audience or make an audience sympathetic to a woman who kills her own child.
His writing -- in so many languages -- made me a sign-post pointing east, west, north and south. I had shoes in German, stockings in French, gloves in Hebrew, a hat with a veil in Italian. He only kept me naked where I was most accustomed to wearing clothes.
This book is past the first flush of youth. It is a book that is in puberty. It is hesitating, and from the vantage point of the mature reader, it is both a sad and amusing reminder of the part which is not always attractive enough to be revisited.
Counting is the most simple and primitive of narratives -- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -- a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end and a sense of progression -- arriving at a finish of two digits -- a goal attained, a dénouement reached.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
The whole of this studio is bonded; that is to say, we are not officially in Japan per se, but rather, in what is considered for these purposes an adjunct of the customs shed at Narita airport. Officially, we are not here because we are pornographic. It's a rather curious situation.
Peter Greenaway
• During the filming of Prospero's Books, quoted in an interview in American Film, Nov/Dec 1991
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Prospero's Books)
A woman materialises behind Prospero -- leaning lightly on the back of his chair -- she is alternately a Titianesque nude and then the Vesalius figure -- flayed … she leans lightly over and kisses Prospero on the cheek. The kiss leaves a blood-red mark on his withered cheek. Prospero shivers.
In the game of Dawn Card-Castles, fifty-two playing cards are stacked up into a castle in a draught-free space: the player can determine the dreams of the next night if he awakes before the castle collapses. Those players who wish to dream of Romance build their castle with the seven of hearts.
The game Flights of Fancy or Reverse Strip Jump is played from as high a jumping-point as a competitor will dare. After each successful jump, the competitor is allowing to put on an article of clothing. Thirteen jumps is normally more than enough to see a competitor fully dressed for the day.
Human relationships are patterned and cross-patterned and restricted and limited and de-limited and caged and freed again by the elaborate conventions, rules, and games we call Civilisation … the rules and the games are often absurd and farcical -- sometimes they are tragic -- yet we tacitly acknowledge that they are necessary.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
The major sweep of this book's living is too often marred by qualifying. It is hedged about with ifs and buts and if onlys and howevers, excuses for a life that is about to shut its covers for the last time and then crumple into dust in an unseen and never-to-be-remembered library.
A thrown-stone trajectory is a good metaphor for so many phenomena: the curve of an event, any event; the curve of a life, any life; the curve of a hypothesis; the curve experienced in the manufacture of a work of art; the curve of interest experienced in the manufacture of a catalogue.
It's a movie that bewilders some viewers and mesmerizes others. A man I met while we were exercising our dogs told me it was the greatest film he had ever seen, and one of my editors claims it's the closest any movie has ever come to photographing the inside of his mind.
About Peter Greenaway
• , discussing A Zed and Two Noughts, in the Washington DC City Paper, 6 Apr 1990
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, About Greenaway)
... [f]launting their erudition and relishing overt staginess, Peter Greenaway's films divide audiences. There are those who are prepared to entertain his conceits and play the game, and others for whom a Greenaway film is about as exciting as a guided tour through an ancient museum where the catalogue has been lost.
Now, at this very minute, another thing is happening which we cannot hear because most paintings do not have a sound-track. Peter is inventing the word "simony" to explain ecclesiastical purchase-power, for which, since his Church later exercised it so expertly, Simon Magus ought to be revered as a patron not a rogue.
As you probably know, I'm often accused of intellectual exhibitionism and all forms of elitism. Although I can understand this point of view, it's a rather wasted argument because, if we regard areas of information as being elite and therefore somehow not usable, it means our centre-ground of activity becomes very, very impoverished.
I think that films or indeed any art work should be made in a way that they are infinitely viewable; so that you could go back to it time and time again, not necessarily immediately but over a space of time, and see new things in it, or new ways of looking at it.
My brother works for a forestry commission. He writes only in green ink to persuade his bossess to make it a standard ecological colour for all forestry business. I asked him what colour ink he would use if he gave up eating whale meat and worked for a whaling company. He said whales were colour blind.
One of my heroes, almost necessarily from what I'm saying, of course, is Borges, who is a supreme master of doing thing -- being a data bank -- and the beauty of this economy is that he could have written War and Peace in three or four pages; who knows, it might have been a better book.
This is the writing of Nagiko Kiyohara no Motosuke Sei Shonagon, and I know you to have blackmailed, violated and humiliated my father. I suspect you also of ruining my husband. You have now committed the greatest crime -- you have desecrated the body of my lover. You and I now know that you have lived long enough.
The game of Bees in the Trees is a variant of musical chairs and is best played with funeral music and in the open air. The object of the game is to sit down on a vacant chair when the music stops. If the chair sat in is occupied by bees, it is permissible to arrange a professional foul.
Two children die. An accident and a suicide amongst so many murders. A chance death and a death of self-recrimination. Smut and the Skipping Girl have been aping their parents and elders -- perhaps they could now teach them a lesson -- all the machinations and game-playing and adjusting for sexual and emotional positioning is not worth the effort.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
The cinema is about other things than storytelling. What you remember from a good film -- and let's only talk about good films -- is not the story, but a particular and hopefully unique experience that is about atmosphere, ambience, performance, style, an emotional attitude, gestures, singular events, a particular audio-visual experience that does not rely on the story.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
It seems to me that dominant cinema seems to require an empathy or a sympathy between the film and the audience which is basically to do with the manipulation of the emotions and it seems to me again -- and this is a very subjective position -- that most cinema seems to trivialise the emotions, sentimentalising or romanticising them.
At once, far off... begins a rumbling, droning noise -- like a thousand distant flying machines -- like the sound of an armada of mechanical birds -- a noise reminiscent of implacable, massive stage machinery in a masque or pageant that is several streets away. It is not one sound but many sounds combined. This is the sound of Prospero's magic.
You don't go into the National Gallery of any famous capital city and cry, sob, laugh, fall about on the floor, become very angry -- it's a completely different reaction. It's a reaction which is to do with a much more composed sense of regarding an image; it's a reaction with a thought process as opposed to an immediate emotional reaction.
Film is such an extraordinary rich medium which can handle so many different modes of operation, combining together in the same place all these extraordinary disciplines which may be executed in their own right -- music, writing, picture making of all kinds, and I often feel that some filmmakers make films with one eye closed and two hands tied behind their backs.
On the other hand, I view the whole matter from a cosmic perspective. I don't take a position. I believe that there are no more positions to take, no certainties, no facts. Many people find this confusing about my films; they say I am hiding out behind irony. But from a cosmic viewpoint, it is eternally unimportant whether one lives or not.
When I was young I hated my body because it was so thin -- now I try not to look at it too much because it's so old. There perhaps might have been just six months when I felt comfortable with it -- when I discovered alcohol for the first time and learnt to drive and was fattening out and had just met your mother.
If a player in the game of Deadman's Catch drops a skittle, he is obliged to suffer a succession of handicaps. First to catch using one hand, then to catch kneeling on one knee, then on two knees, then with one eye closed. If a player finally drops a catch with both eyes closed, then he is out and must take his place in the winding-sheet.
As for the girl -- the child of a prostitute -- what of her future? A life of prostitution in a gaudy dress -- pretending to be Nell Gwynne, the Protestant whore? No -- out of her mother's earnings she will go to University and study to become an astronomer. Charles II made his mistress Nell Gwynne an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1674.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
... Sir Isaac Newton, the subject of this cake, is in every Englishman's wallet... he's on the English one-pound note. I always carry one on me for good luck. A man who discovered gravity and thus successfully secured our feet on the ground is a good companion. In fixing us to the earth, he enabled us -- with equanimity -- to permit our heads to remain in the clouds.
There is a shy client who uses invisible ink on Nagiko's body to hide his obvious talent. The woman attempts to develop the invisible ink by bathing in warm water, by standing as close as she dare to a hot fire, by washing her body in the juice of onion-skins until the onions make her weep and her tears prove to be the necessary solvent to reveal the writing.
A great many things are dying very violently all the time. The best days for violent deaths are Tuesdays. They are the yellow-paint days. Saturdays are second best -- or worst. Saturdays are red-paint days. The Great Death Game is therefore a contest between red-paint days and yellow-paint days. So far yellow-paint days are winning by thirty-one corpses to twenty-nine. Whatever the colour, a violent death is always celebrated by a firework.
Outside in the garden, the greenhouse collapses. Masonry crashes from the roof and splashes into the moat. The grave-marker for the pig Hortense moves up out of the ground. The Maillol statue stands firm as the shrubs around it quiver. A water-main bursts in the yard sending a shower into the air. Trees fall as though whipped down to the ground. The water on the lake shimmers and ripples like a film run backwards.
There is another earthquake in Kyoto. We appreciate it lyrically. A slide of dust slips along a roof gully. A large tree of golden petals shakes and the petals drift to the floor. Birds fly up. Bottles of clear liquid in a shop quiver on a shelf. The water in a puddle shimmers reflections up a wall. A collection of grey roof tiles shift and -- ever faster -- begin to slide down a roof slope.
Four handsome, naked, female dancers separate themselves from the crowd in Prospero's cloak... and they dance. From now on -- they become Prospero's dancers -- they mark out a four-figured symmetrical space around him -- dancing in perfect unison -- a strange, prancing, high-stepping, complicated, frankly sensuous dance -- danced with great firmness and confidence -- their eroticism is aimed only at themselves -- no mincing or quarter given -- their erotic confidence is demonstrative and challenging.
Finally we hit upon the old cathedral of Amsterdam, which belongs to the Reformed Church and which we remodeled. The owners gave us permission, on certain financial conditions, to shoot the film there. Before that, we had planned to use the cathedral of Cologne, but two days before we began our preparations, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover was shown on German television and the archbishop immediately forbade us from entering the cathedral site!
I've just been reading -- stuff to make your hair curl -- you go in that toilet -- that's the sort of stuff people read -- not this sort of thing -- don't you feel out of touch? Does this stuff make money? I bet you're the only person to have read this book -- but I bet you every man in this restaurant has had a read of that stuff in there... makes you think, doesn't it?
Prospero's power is held in his relationship to his books, and The Tempest is witness to more than a few apparently conflicting facets of his personality -- not all of them particularly praiseworthy. What was it, in those books, that made Prospero not only powerful but also a moralising schold and a petty revenger, a benevolent despote, a jealous father and also a master designer of song and dance? Are we truly the product of what we read?
Death is not necessarily an old and withered book with dry pages. It can be a thousand leaves of strong and shining text on a powerful body, held erect on the vertebrae of a strong spine. The heart hardly breathes because quietus has been reached, the torso is like a rock, the legs are rooted, the ink is dependable. If the words of death should be considered faded and sere -- where could be the dignity in dying?
We went to Kyoto -- back to Japan -- to work in the Matsuo Tiasha shrine which Sei Shonagon had visited regularly. I couldn't give up such an opportunity. I was also a little homesick. We didn't finish walking the cat-walk until midnight when all the audience had gone. I didn't mind -- Sei Shonagon had watched the moon rise in that garden a thousand years ago -- I could have walked up and down that path all night long.
John Cage, composer, painter, and all-round thinker and cultural catalyst, said that if you introduce twenty percent of novelty into any artwork, watch out -- you are going to lose eighty percent of your audience at once. He said you would lose them for fifteen years. Cage was interested in fifteen-year cycles. But he was hopelessly optimistic. The general appreciation, for example, of Western painting has got stuck around Impressionism, and that was 130 years ago, not fifteen years ago.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
In the film The Belly of an Architect, an architect from Chicago organizes an exhibition of his favourite architect Etienne-Lous Boullée (1728-1799). I wrote an account of this hypothetical exhibition as though it had been seen by an unlikely Boullée contemporary -- Jane Austen (1775-1817). She made a prim but perceptive account of her progress through the corridors and halls of the Vittoriano in the centre of Rome -- a building constructed long after both of these eminent personages were dead.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Watching Water: A book, written to accompany an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 1993.)
A final word. Drowning by Numbers is a story of three women who murder their husbands -- one in a bath, one in the sea and one in a swimming pool. It is a black and ironic fairy-tale for adults, half invented by children who are innocently obsessed with sex and death -- especially death. It is a poetic, amoral tale told morally to support the belief that the good are seldom rewarded, the bad go largely unpunished and the innocent are always abused.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
Sheep are especially sensitive to the exact moment of the turn of the tide. In this game, nine tethered sheep react, pull on the stakes, jolt the chairs and rattle the tea-cups. Bets are taken on the combined sensitivity of any three lines of sheep -- read vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Since there are normally three tide-turns every twenty-four hours, it is normal practice to take the best of three results. Reliable clocks, calendars, and time-tables are used to determine the accuracy of the sheep's forecast.
There is nothing more splendid than the prospect of sitting in the morning before a new ink-stone and a sheet of white paper. The smell of the white paper is like the scent of the skin of a new lover who has just paid a surprise visit out of a rainy garden. And the black ink is like lacquered hair. And the quill? Well the quill is like the instrument of pleasure whose purpose is never in doubt but whose surprising efficiency one always -- always forgets.
As author in control of the plot I can choose and dictate the fall-out of events from any number of infinite possibilities -- which is a very volatile state of affairs, suggesting the ephemerality of fictional narrative. I can choose to have seven characters and kill six of them off in the first five minutes. I can have seventy characters and squash them under a fallen rock, make them copulate with beasts, sit them on the moon or turn their hair white. This casual condition of authorship is irresponsible.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Watching Water: A book, written to accompany an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 1993.)
There is no obligation for the author of a film to believe in, or to sympathise with, the moral behaviour of his characters. Nor is he necessarily to be accredited with the same opinions as his characters. Nor is it necessary or obligatory for him to believe in the tenet of his construction -- all of which is a disclaimer to the notion that the author of Drowning by Numbers believes that all men are weak, enfeebled, loutish, boorish and generally inadequate and incompetent as partners for women. But it's a thought.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Fear of Drowning By Numbers: A book with 100 short essays, a companion to the film Drowning By Numbers.)
I made a very bad mistake; I miscounted these scraps of information on the record as 92, and in continual homage to this man who had been so influential to me, I began creating or constructing my own films on this so-called "magic" number of 92 … but when I eventually made a film about John Cage and met him, I explained this to him, and he found it very amusing because there are only 90 stories on the two sides of the record, and I'd based three years of my filmic career on this mathematical error!
You can say with safety that nowadays women have finally acknowledged their position of not liking men. We could say now that women don't like men. They can acknowledge that they prefer the company of their own kind. I think we can also say generally that most men do not like other men. Most men prefer to like women. So women are the most liked by the most people. Men love women, women love children, and children love hamsters. A one-way slide. There is little going back the other way. Can hamsters love children? I leave you to deduce the rest.
I invariably, after great familiarity with a film, concoct a personal way of reading it that relies entirely on information which a public audience would, I feel, have scant interest. I might travel from a casual unrehearsed glance of a minor character to a detail of folded cloth, from a rhyme in the dialogue to an over-excited high note in the music, from a misplaced shadow to a patch of rogue colour, from a shine on a furniture leg to a curious accidental photographic haze around a street lamp, from the examination of a cloud that looks like a snail to the discomfort of an actress who I know is stifling a sneeze.
Peter Greenaway
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, Watching Water: A book, written to accompany an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 1993.)
Prospero wears a large, heavy, dark-blue cloak or gown that enfolds him like a quilted blanket... it is darkly embroidered with small wine-coloured beads and swirls of black vegetation... it has long strings and ornate tassels that trail to the ground... it is a garment that has often been worn... a little frayed and scuffed. Later it will be seen to be capable of changing colour... in seven stages comparable to the power of Prospero's magic... black, brown, dark blue, light blue, purple, dark red and fiery red... and to have a vivid lining embroidered with dazzling stars -- a lining that is only revealed in flashes as when a dark butterfly momentarily uncovers coloured underwings.
Gonzalo threw many books into the bottom of the leaky vessel that took Prospero out on to the sea away from Italy and Europe into exile. Shakespeare does not, of course, elaborate what these volumes were. Prospero's Books speculates. There would need perhaps to be books on navigation and survival, there would need to be books for an elderly scholar to learn how to rear and educate a young daughter, how to colonise an island, farm it, subjugate its inhabitants, identify its plants and husband its wild beasts. There would need to be books to offer solace and advise patience and put past glory and present despondency into perspective. There would need to be books to encourage revenge.
The film has written and spoken dialogue in twenty-five languages-English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Latin, Hebrew, necrotic Egyptian … and it has written calligraphic text on paper, wood, and flesh, on flat and curved surfaces, vertically and horizontally, on both living and dead flesh, in neon, on screens, in projection, as sub-title, inter-title, and sur-title, as High Art and low art, as advertisement and banker's check and registration plate, on photograph, on blackboard, as letter correspondence, as photocopy facsimile, and spoken, chanted, and sung, with and without music … a mocking challenge. You want text? Cinema wants text? Cinema pretends to eschew text? Then we can give you text to mock that smug suggestion that cinema thinks it is pictures.
Peter Greenaway
• "105 Years of Illustrated Text" in the Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 5 No. 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Greenaway" (Sourced, 105 Years of Illustrated Text: A short essay, discussing the film The Pillow Book.)
I made, for a London television company a programme called 26 Bathrooms … which was about the ways in which people behaved in their bathrooms. It was about where people put the soap on one level, or the colour of the bathroom curtains, the acoustics, about whether you sang in the bath, and it was structured very simply on the alphabet. We had a man and a woman who arrived one by bus, one by bike, to come and demonstrate for me, in front of the camera, how a jacuzzi operated. I asked both of them to take their clothes off because obviously you don't get into a bath with your clothes on. They hesitate, but eventually their dressing gowns came off and they got into the bath. They had never met one another before. Six weeks later I got an invitation from these people that I had brought together so peculiarly in this jacuzzi -- they were planning to get married! I understand that now they have three children.

End Peter Greenaway Quotes