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Films & Architecture: "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover"

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For the second time in our section, we propose a Peter Greenaway film. This one has not an obvious architectural name, however the way in which the director works with space results very attractive from an architects’ point of view.

The story occurs within no more than five locations and it is full of allegories through a strong use of lighting and colours. Enjoy a classic and let us know your comments!


Original title: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover Year: 1989 Runtime: 124 min. Country: France, United Kingdom Director: Peter Greenaway Writer: Peter Greenaway Soundtrack: Michael Nyman Cast: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Tim Roth


English gangster Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) has taken over the high-class Le Hollandais Restaurant, run by French chef Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer). Spica makes nightly appearances at the restaurant with his retinue of thugs. His oafish behavior causes frequent confrontations with the staff and his own customers, whose patronage he loses, but whose money he seems not to miss.

Forced to accompany Spica is his reluctant, well-bred wife, Georgina (Helen Mirren), who soon catches the eye of a quiet regular at the restaurant, bookshop owner Michael (Alan Howard). Under her husband’s nose, Georgina carries on an affair with Michael with the help of the restaurant staff. Ultimately Spica learns of the affair, forcing Georgina to hide out at Michael’s bookshop. Borst sends food to Georgina through his young employee, a boy soprano who sings while working. Spica tortures the boy before finding the bookstore’s location written in a book the boy is carrying. Spica’s men storm Michael’s bookshop while Georgina is visiting the boy in hospital, and torture him to death by force-feeding him pages from his books. Georgina discovers his body when she returns.

Overcome with rage and grief, she begs Borst to cook Michael’s body, and he eventually complies. Together with all the people that Spica wronged throughout the film, Georgina confronts her husband at the restaurant and forces him to eat a mouthful of Michael’s cooked body. Spica complies, gagging, before Georgina shoots him in the head.


Previously posted on this section…

Cite:Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover"" 23 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>