Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Goltzius & The Pelican Compagny

A film by Peter Greenaway
Format :  35mm – Couleur – Dolby
Shooting Language :  English
Synopsis :
In the winter of 1590 the Dutch printer and engraver Hendrick Goltzius, approaches the Margrave of Alsace at Colmar for funds to set up a printing press to make and publish illustrated books. He proposes that the first two books manufactured by this new printing press should be dedicated to the Margrave and his court and should be an illustrated Old Testament featuring six tales of an erotic nature, and the second should be an illustrated Metamorphosis of Ovid featuring the infidelities of Jupiter. To tempt the Margrave further, Goltzius and his printing company will offer to perform dramatisations of these erotic stories for his court. The Margrave, a noted liberal priding himself on his religious and cultural tolerance, with a large library, and an educated interest in books and the new technologies of printing, is tempted. He agrees before witnesses, that if he is stimulated and excited he will reward Goltzius and his company with the asked-for funding. Goltzius with his Pelican Company of printers and their wives and mistresses, all associated with theatrical entertainments, proceed. Their first dramatisation is of the Genesis Story of Adam and Eve, with God creating Adam and then Eve, the temptation of the Devil and Eve persuading Adam to eat the apple. The performance takes place before a selected section of the Margrave’s family and court and a collection of differing religious representatives, a catholic priest, a Calvinist protestant and a Jewish rabbi. The dramatisation is skilfully accompanied by spectacular effects of God and his angels, the Devil in the tree of knowledge, and the wonders of the garden of Eden, with the finale of the expulsion of Adam and eve from the garden accompanied with a winter snow-storm blasting through the palace.  The audience are surprised, shocked and delighted by the frankness and magic of the performance and the religious representatives are stunned into hot debate about questions of representing God. The Margrave is amused, and is titillated by the actress Susannah, playing Eve, who in turn sees an opportunity to become the Margrave’s mistress and retire from acting. Goltzius’s second play is a dramatisation of the story of Lot and his Daughters. The Pelican Company stage the play in the palace’s boiler-rooms to simulate the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah, the act of Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt is replicated, and the frankness of the dramatisation, deeply disturb the court and the clerics, who accuse Goltzius of blasphemy and order the arrest of the Pelican Company’s playwright Boethius, who retorts with skilful arguments about the validity of the performance, hinting at his own Anabaptist, if not outright atheistically opinions. The Margrave meanwhile has become excited and enamoured of the actress Adela who played Lot’s second daughter, and who is Boethius’s mistress, thus creating intense jealousy in the actress Susannah. The third Goltzius dramatic offering is the story of David and Bathsheba. Boethius challenges the court and the clerics with Old Testament hypocrisy, and the Margrave, determined to sleep with Boethius’s wife, and eager to get him out of the way, agrees to his arrest, charged with heresy. The Pelican Company, disrupted but determined to continue, persuade Boethius to write the fourth drama in his prison cell and they perform the Old Testament story of Potiphar’s Wife where the powerful wife of an Egyptian official seduces a reluctant Joseph who is played by the Margrave’s younger brother. It is a blackmailing stratagem arranged by Goltzius to get the Margrave to release Boethius, by humiliating the Margrave in seeing his brother humiliated on stage. Goltzius’s fifth story is the Old Testament tale of Delilah’s seduction of Samson, and the large and physically powerful Jewish rabbi is coerced into playing Samson, who is not so unwilling since he is to play opposite the actress who played Potiphar’s wife who excited him. The outcome of the Samson and Delilah story is the emasculation of Samson whereby the rabbi has every hair on his body shaved. The distraught rabbi furiously and revengefully denounces the Calvinist’s seduction of the Margrave’s brother to the Margrave and in a parody of the Samson and Delilah story, pulls down the Pelican Company’s pavilion. Boethius’ mistress, in a bid to get her lover Boethius released, agrees to perform the sensuous role of Salome in the New Testament story of the Death of John the Baptist with the Margrave being permitted to play Herod, if Boethius can play John the Baptist.  In the subsequent performance, Boethius’ mistress publicly scorns the Margrave, and makes love to Boethius in public in front of him. In a furious jealous rage, and to fulfil the biblical story, the Margrave, playing Herod, orders the beheading of John the Baptist played by Boethius. But this is no enacted simulation but the real thing and Boethius is beheaded.Consternation breaks out, the Margrave is shunned, his Catholic representative buys off Goltzius and his Pelican Company by signing the funding of the printing press contract, and the Pelican Company are swiftly driven out of Colmar in a snowstorm.  On the road south to Italy, Boethius’ mistress in the carriage unrolls a parcel to reveal Boethius’ bloody decapitated head which she has stolen, and which she now ardently kisses and caresses. The carriage rushes into a dark tunnel in the Alps. Goltzius takes his Pelican Company to Italy.
Fiche technique :
Written and directed by Peter Greenaway Cast  : GOLTZIUS – Remsey Nasr ADAELA – Kate Moran THE MARGRAVE – F.Murray Abraham BOETHUIS – Giulio Berruti SUSANNAH – Anne Louise Hassing EBOLA – Lisette Malidor EDUARD – Flavio Parenti SAMUEL – Pippo Del Bono PORTIA – Halina Reijn RICARDO del MONTE – Vincent Riotta JOHANNES CLEAVER – Stefano Scherini RABBI MOAB – Francesco De Vito MARIE – Nada Abrus Crew : Director & Writer Peter Greenaway Producer Kasander Film Kees Kasander Line Producer Kevan Van Thompson Co-Producer F&ME Mike Downey Co-Producer F&ME Sam Taylor Co-Producer CD Productions Catherine Dussart Co-Producer MP Film Production   Igor A. Nola Production Manager         Vlaho Krile Production Coordinator CRO Nikolina Koceic Production Coordinator NL Julia Ton Unit / Location Manager Miroslav Pogelsek “Pajdo” Production Designer Ben Zuijdwijk Art Director Ivo Hušnja Casting Director NL Allard Van Der Werff Director of the photography  Reinier Van Brummelen Costume Designer CRO Blanka Budak Costume Designer NL Marrit Van der Burgt Make up designer Peter de Visser Sound recordist Ivica Sljivarić “ Šljiva” A Coproduction between : Kasander Film BV/Germany, CDP / France, Portpic Ltd/Angleterre, MP Films/Croatie