Greenaway is an educated man. I mean that in the most formal and academic sense of the word. His cultural knowledge is that of a professor’s, and more power to him for it. That he makes films that allow him to wallow into a prestigious historical frame of reference is his business. What matters is once it is cooked, does it taste good?
Many claim the story is a political allegory. I guess that’s of interest to those interested in politics, so what’s left for us, interested in the visual abstraction of narrative?
Look at the kitchen here. Such elaboration. A complex machinery of smaller machineries. The thing presented as a living painterly tableau. It is clear this man knows classical painting. That he translates it to the cinema and does so with competence while virtually nobody else does (at least at this elaborate level) is a gift we can all appreciate.
So, the kitchen as this marvelous creative universe of complex elaboration, the dining room as the stage for presentation and performance, the public bathroom as repository of closet intimacies, the book deposit as a safe haven, and that fated outdoors with its wild dogs and escape trucks where things rot.
The story is straight, but pay attention to the environment. It is full of doors, lures, secret hallways, beautiful ornaments. Apparently this is a minor work. But enjoy the rich spaces. In particular that one scene where Greenaway makes love to the kitchen, or is it the characters?