Darwin: A 1993 Film by Peter Greenaway

Although British director Peter Greenaway is best known for feature films like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Prospero’s Books, and The Pillow Book, he has also completed several highly respected projects for television, including this 53-minute exploration of the life and work of Charles Darwin. Darwin is structured around 18 separate tableaux, each focusing on another chapter in the naturalist’s life, and each consisting of just one long uninterrupted shot. Other than the narrator’s voiceover, there is no dialogue.

As with most Greenaway films, the visual composition of individual scenes in Darwin reflects the director’s fascination with Renaissance painting (he was first trained as a muralist).  In 2006, Greenaway even embarked on an ambitious series of video installations called Nine Classic Paintings Revisited, in which he applied his often controversial vision to The Last SupperThe Wedding at Cana and other famous artworks. You can watch an interview with the filmmaker about The Last Supper here. Even better, watch his 2010 UC-Berkeley lecture on the inspiration and philosophy behind the entire project, which we’ve included in our collection of 275 Cultural Icons. We’ve also added Darwin to our collection of Free Movies Online.

via Biblioklept

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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Comments (11)
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  • Thanks, I wasn’t aware of this film.

    One minor point re. your commentary: Darwin never received a knighthood; he remained plain old Mr Charles Darwin until the end of his days.

  • Sheerly says:

    Good catch, and thank you!

  • maxmaronna says:

    Your website is excellent. Thank you very much!

  • Bob Henry says:

    I love the classics

  • I think everything said was very logical. However, think
    about this, suppose you added a little information? I mean,
    I don’t wish to tell you how to run your website, but suppose you added a post title that grabbed folk’s attention?
    I mean Darwin: A 1993 Film by Peter Greenaway | Open Culture is kinda plain.

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  • ameerbux murree from pakistan says:

    ur website is fantastic i cant express my thoughts about this website but plz add latest knowledge and movies…

  • Ashwin says:

    i was not able to watch the movie or download what can i do for that

  • Kerry Heseltine says:

    Hate to be a prude but this version of Darwin is a bit stale to the taste and smell.
    One is always at a better course in life when one looks at the other side of things. I recommend a great read by I. L. Cohen “Darwin was wrong: A Study In Probabilities”

  • Roswitha Aziz says:

    I’m very impressed and would like to get more informations.

  • Erik says:

    Thanks for uploading this great piece of art. Unfortunatelly such a poor quality, I would rather pay for excellent quality than watch this mivie in such a poor quality.

  • R Johnsen says:

    I did not get far into this movie as it was a bit of nonsense right off the top. Firstly, Darwin was set out to become a religious man and had promised his father that that would be his goal in life and to have his own small church.
    He was, it seems,a very hard worker and a good family man. I do believe the controversy with the Church was over done in a lot of ‘fictions’ with respect to Darwin.
    He had good friends among his peers and was, overall, well regarded. Movies etc like to exaggerate his opinions as being anti-church. But that is what makes movies entertaining.
    He was less a genius than a very hard worker and a demon in continuing to work diligently.
    Unfortunately, he had one bad result in believing black people to be the lesser in the human scale. I believe he had not studied well the the human condition but extrapolated from his other involved studies of life.

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