Compelling Reasons To Live (An Occasional Series)

Exhibit A: The Draughtsman’s Contract.

However jaded I may have become, I still heart this movie so fucking much it hurts.

First saw it when I was about 14. Completely changed my life.

Latterly, before making the mistake of allowing baby sis to borrow it, I used to have it on as audiovisual wallpaper from time to time, but I can’t have actually watched it properly for maybe three or four years.

No wonder I’ve been so miserable.

MR NOYES: Mr Chandos was a man who spent more time with his gardener than with his wife. They discussed plum trees. Ad nauseam. He gave his family and his tenants cause to dread September, for they were regaled with plums until their guts rumbled like thunder and their backsides ached from overuse. He built the chapel at Fovent, where the pewseats are of plumwood. So the tenants still have cause to remember Chandos through their backsides, on account of the splinters.

“It is said that the Duke de Courcey invited his water mechanic to the top of an elaborate cascade he had constructed, and asked him if he could build such a marvel for anyone else. After offering various thanks and pleasantries, the mechanic finally admitted that – with sufficient patronage – he probably could.

The Duke pushed him, gently, in the small of the back — and the wretched man plummeted to a watery death!”

(raucous laughter)

MRS HERBERT: Thomas, why is Mr Neville interested in my sheets?
MR NOYES: He is to draw them wet outside the laundry.
MRS HERBERT: Wet? Why does he want them wet?
MR NOYES: Madam, I cannot answer you that. Perhaps he has fond memories of being a baby.

MR NEVILLE: Madam, who is this child who walks the garden with such a solemn look on his face?
MRS TALMANN: That is my husband’s nephew, Mr Neville.
MR NEVILLE: He attracts servants like a little midget king. What is his patrimony, Madam?
MRS TALMANN: His father was killed at Ausbergenfeldt. His mother became a Catholic, so my husband had him brought to England.
MR NEVILLE: To be reared as a little Protestant.
MRS TALMANN: He was an orphan, Mr Neville, and needed to be looked after.
MR NEVILLE: An orphan, madam, because his mother became a Catholic?!?

MR TALMANN: It is imperative, Augustus, that in representing me, you ask of yourself the very best. And you do not fraternize with whomsoever you choose. Chasing sheep is a tiresome habit best left to shepherds. If Mr Neville chases sheep, he is not to be emulated.

Drawing is an attribution worth very little – and in England, worth nothing at all. If you must scribble, I suggest that your time would be better spent in studying mathematics. I shall engage you a tutor. And who knows – one day you, Augustus, may add the Talmann name to the Royal Society.


Your tutor, of course, must be German. There are far too many English influences on your life as it is.

MRS TALMANN: Mr Neville, I have grown to believe that a really intelligent man makes for an indifferent painter. For painting requires a certain blindness; a certain refusal to be aware of all the options. An intelligent man will know more about what he is drawing than he will see. And in the space between knowing and seeing he will become… constrained. Unable to persue an idea strongly; fearing perhaps that the discerning – those who he is eager to please – will find him wanting if he does not put in not only what he knows.. but what they know as well.

Fucking.. fucking.. I love you, The Draughtsman’s Contract. Still. Will you marry me? I’m serious.

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