H is for House (1973)
This is a delightful little film. The film begins in a most tranquil location - the pleasant, rural English countryside. Apple trees and the birds singing. The director narrates to us a short tale about a naturalist and the title is shown, accompanied by a spurt of music by Vivaldi. The main narrator is Colin Cantlie, the familiar voice heard on the other Greenaway films, Water Wrackets, Vertical Features Remake, A Walk Through H and The Falls. A little girl (Greenaway's daughter Hannah) plays in the garden, while her mother tends to her and other chores. H is for many things. Other letters of the alphabet are narrated. The film concludes with another witty story.
H is for House. Delightful.
"The mixture is irresistible, the precision of Greenaway's spoken effects and the weaving of three voices (with bursts of Vivaldi) produces a pleasurable frisson." - John Pym, MFB
Greenaway on H is for House:
"I'd just married and had a small kid, and we used to spend our holidays in Wardour; we stayed in a magnificent early 19th century house belonging to a friend. It was the most extraordinary area of idealized, romanticized English landscape, very redolent of Roman Catholic history; all sorts of violent tragedies had happened there during the English Civil Wars. It was a rather shutaway countryside, so it had a sense of great drama and romance - in response to which, I made a series of films, of which this is the first. It was couched in the whole business of naming things - as in the late paintings of Magritte, the confusion between nomenclature, ascribing meanings and words... I made this enormous list of every single thing I could find in the domestic rural landscape that began the the letter H, which when juxtaposed gave you all sorts of interesting connotations. My daughter Hannah was learning the alphabet and her voice is on the soundtrack repeating and getting things wrong - the wisdom of the innocent. It was also very much to do with concepts of Heaven and Hell and how those are interchangeable."
The tales in H is for House:
A naturalist of very fixed habits followed the sun around his house. Soon after dawn he sat at breakfast with his family on the porch that faced due east. At eleven o' clock he joined his family for a cup of coffee on the veranda that faced the sun towards the south-east. At lunch-time he ate on the terrace with his family overlooking the garden that lay due south. At about seven o' clock the naturalist dined with his family in the conservatory that faced the sunset, and has soon as it was dark the naturalist went to bed.
When the world began to spin anti-clockwise, the naturalist couldn't change his habits, and he spent the day alone living in the shadow of his house, and never met, sat or ate with his family again.
A woman who lived in the country watched and waited for the approach of the city. She was convinced it would come directly from the north, and only in the afternoon. So she scanned the northern horizon through binoculars until tea-time. Her expectations and her anxieties, however fearful, always ceased abrupty and absolutely at four o'clock. The speculators grew wise and parked their lorries to the east of her property and they unloaded their bricks on the western and southern sides of her garden whilst she was pouring tea.
When the city was built in the woods and fields around the woman's house, the town-planners had left the woman an open corridor to the north. But at four o'clock every afternoon they confidently filled that corridor in with temporary buildings and disposable traffic.
A man believed that the human eye was like some sort of battery that the sun alone could recharge. Avoiding the dangerous glare of the day, he took to watching summer sunsets in the hope that his sight would thus be much improved for the winter. He persuaded his friends to watch with him, and soon, in various parts of the country, groups of people sat out of doors in the evening, looking westwards.
Before very long, rival societies sprang up to watch the dawn. Sun-watching to recharge sight became endemic.
Controversy arose: the rift between those who looked east in the morning and those who looked west in the evening led to argument and abuse, and ultimately to blows. Cynical observers began to look west in the morning and east in the evening, and a group of of satirical opticians began to look north and south in the middle of the night.
You can see the complete script of H is for House here
Vertical Features Remake
A Walk Through H
Act of God
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Sea in their Blood
Making a Splash
A Zed & Two Noughts
The Belly of an Architect
Drowning by Numbers
Fear of Drowning
Death in the Seine
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
A TV Dante: The Inferno Cantos I-VIII
M is for Man, Music and Mozart
The Baby of Mācon
Lumiere & Company
The Pillow Book
8 1/2 Women
The Death of a Composer
The Tulse Luper Suitcases
The European Showerbath