The Belly of an Architect  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Belly of an Architect is a 1987 British film directed by Peter Greenaway.

Original music by Glenn Branca and Wim Mertens.

The movie stars Brian Dennehy and Chloe Webb and contains numerous references to the work of the 18th century French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987.

The film's protagonist Stourley Kracklite (Dennehy) has been commissioned to construct an exhibition in Rome dedicated to the architecture of Boullée. However, doubts arise among his Italian colleagues as the legitimacy of Boullée among the pantheon of famed architects, perhaps owing to the fact that Boullée was an inspiration for Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler's architect Albert Speer. Furthermore, Kracklite's marriage quickly dissolves along with his health.

Kracklite's physical and social ruin in some way corresponds to the decline of his idol Boullée, who remained relatively forgotten until the twentieth century. The character of Kracklite himself becomes obsessed with the historical Caesar Augustus after hearing that Livia, the wife of Augustus, supposedly poisoned him. Kracklite assumes that his own wife has tried to do the same due to his increasing stomach pains.

Director Greenaway's visual technique heightens Kracklite's alienation. There are few close-up shots of the other actors beside Dennehy, who himself is dwarfed by the dominance of the Roman architecture surrounding him. Greenaway's trade-mark historical reenactments also compose a major theme: many visual images of the film appear to replicate major 18th century works of painting and architecture. In addition there are subtle references to Isaac Newton and the law of gravity, perhaps alluding to Kracklite's own inability to escape the physical laws of mortality.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Belly of an Architect" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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