chapter  11
24 Pages

A walk through heterotopia: peter greenaway’s landscapes by numbers: Bridget Elliott and Anthony Purdy

In Fear of Drowning / Règles du jeu, published in 1988 shortly after the release of the feature film, Drowning by Numbers, Peter Greenaway offers a numbered series of 100 speculations about a film he is “still happy to contemplate.”1 Sections 90 to 99 describe the nine episodes of a projected television series to be called Fear of Drowning: “Each episode would increase in length, starting at twenty minutes and increasing by five-minute increments until the 115-minute Drowning by Numbers was reached” (Greenaway, 1988a, 125).2 The main characters were to be Cissie Colpitts, her blind mother, Sadie, and her father, Cribb, a quixotic ferryman on the banks of the River Humber in Yorkshire. The nine episodes were to relate Cissie’s childhood from her birth in 1876 to her 18th birthday on May 10, 1895, “the same day that Lumière patented the cine-camera. Cissie anticipates the language of the cinema before it is born” (Greenaway, 1988a, 127). Like Madgett in Drowning by Numbers, Cribb is an inveterate game player and in episode 1 “plays

a solo Christening-Game on the wide tidal foreshore of the river. Part hopscotch, part Japanese sand-garden, part quoits, the game-board is fifty yards square and scratched and shaped into the gritty sand of the river beach among the prints of crabs, dogs and sheep” (Greenaway, 1988a, 127). Episode 2 enacts the Lobster-Quadrille, a game devised for 30 playersfishermen, ferrymen, boatmen, their wives and children-to be played on the river foreshore: “The game is nautically mapped out on the beach in a giant square…. A flooded pit in the South represents the Antarctic Deeps, an upturned boat in the East represents the Great Wall of China, a bonfire in the North represents the Aurora Borealis, a grease-bath in the West stands in for the Sargasso Sea” (Greenaway, 1988a, 129).