Movies Like Drowning by Numbers (1988)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Drowning by Numbers ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Murdering your spouse is bad, so it’s slightly bizarre how Drowning by Numbers has an unbothered, even amused, attitude towards its murders. Moments seem randomly placed, like the first scene of a girl jumping rope while listing the stars by name, and the film can be hard to follow, even if the production design and cinematography keep you drawn in. But as the film progresses, and Madgett’s son Smut enumerates the fictional games as if he was a historian of sorts, writer-director Peter Greenaway meticulously crafts a quirky, twisty crime comedy, where, like children’s games and the men in their lives, the murdering wives do what they do because they can get away with it. Drowning by Numbers cleverly plays with the way we treat folklore, structure, and rules, even down to the very medium Greenaway works with.

Normally, when your beloved wife dies in a car crash, you would be angry at the driver responsible, maybe even avoidant, sad, or incredibly triggered. Instead, in A Zed & Two Noughts, the twin zoologists with dead wives become addicted to the idea of life and death, obsessed with watching and rewatching the origins of life, captivated in photographing decay in time lapse, and strangely attached to the one-legged driver. Because of this, the film is quite bizarre, grotesque, and it definitely wouldn’t be for everyone, even for fans of Peter Greenaway. But the way it’s all filmed is striking, which is probably why Greenaway continued collaborating with cinematographer Sacha Vierny, until his death, and with the film’s unpredictability and excellent scoring, it’s hard to look away.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andréa Ferréol, Brian Deacon, David Attenborough, Eric Deacon, Frances Barber, Geoffrey Palmer, Guusje van Tilborgh, Jim Davidson, Joss Ackland, Ken Campbell, Wolf Kahler

Director: Peter Greenaway

Rating: NR