The Belly of an Architect (1987)

The Belly of an Architect

The Belly of an Architect

The ebullient Brian Dennehy gives a fine performance as Stourley Kracklite, an American architect who is in Rome with his younger wife Louisa (Chloe Webb) to arrange an exhibition on the French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée. Kracklite is obsessed with Boullée and even writes letters to him. Kracklite's life soon begins to deteriorate. He starts to suffer excruciating stomach pains and vomits each time he eats. He even thinks that his wife is poisoning him. His wife then falls pregnant and has an affair with Kracklite's rival architect, Caspasian Speckler (Lambert Wilson). Kracklite then sleeps with Speckler's sister, to get some sort of satisfaction. Speckler intrudes while they are having sex, and announces, "having sex with your pregnant wife is perfect, because I don't need to use contraception". Kracklite then punches him on the nose. Speckler's sister then says, "Don't put your blood on my white towel!"

The film follows the parallels of these two unappreciated architects from different eras. The film is memorable for Dennehy's (an actor who is also unappreciated) remarkable performance. Also, the beautiful cinematography by Greenaway's trusty DOP Sacha Vierny makes the film very easy to look at. From the ancient architecture of Rome, to a painting-like bowl of figs, it is pristine-looking. Michael Nyman is absent, but the music by Wim Mertens is splendid. This film was made in between A Zed & Two Noughts and Drowning by Numbers, and it is quite unlike those two films, which, I think, are superior to this in the way they offer us a much more enigmatic, abstract concept. But even an ever so slightly lesser Greenaway film is a thing to behold.


"The story is decorated in the usual Greenaway style; visual and symbolic rhymes galore produce a quizzical and quirky meditation on a multitude of themes. But where the film perhaps wins out over Greenaway's earlier movies is in its admission of feeling. The exquisitely framed images, the allusive script, the droll witticisms are counterbalanced by Dennehy's literally enormous performance, which threatens to tear the film's formal symmetries to vividly memorable shreds." - Geoff Andrew, Time Out


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