Drowning by Numbers ★★★½

First and foremost, a feast for psychoanalysts. The central conceit here, in which a series of numbers serve as literal signposts that guide viewers along the thrice-repeating narrative, at first comes across as a feat of directorial hubris, but obsessive-compulsive behavior is not only the film's approach but also its subject matter. Initially, Drowning seems to be conceiving of its female characters from a feminist angle, them offing their men out of acts of bored defiance, but as its male obsessions over sex, death and fantasies of control take hold it becomes clear that the film is not depicting liberated women but instead women as interchangeable objects… as particularly detached men might view them. Greenaway’s fixation on detailed set design, taxonomies and structural gambits, then, is meant to expose narrative as a system, with rules much like a children’s game… yet, as the final scenes show, as the women lose the game but win life, rules to which reality is not bound. Many have complained that the experience of viewing the film… or more accurately trying to order and make sense of it… is exhausting. Given the fates of those who try to enforce order in Drowning by Numbers, this seems to be entirely be design.