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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989): A Personal Review

Peter Greenaway takes his camera through an adjacent tri-stage setup, the cold foggy outside, the warm vibrant kitchen and the richly decked up banquet hall. While the first one displays cruelty, abuse and bestiality shamelessly (fittingly complemented with a pack of hungry hounds and stench of rotten meat), the third is a site of worse cruelty disguised in a masquerade of French etiquette. 
The central stage, the kitchen, becomes a

refuge, an oasis of human worth, (almost perpetually blessed with the sweet voice singing a hymn of redemption). 

The meat van, filled with stinking rotten worm infested carnage becomes the purgatory through which the star-crossed lovers must pass to reach deliverance. 

Deliverance, however is a myth in this world. The promised land becomes a site of disaster.
The final request of Georgianna takes the cycle to a final close. We reach the site of masquerade to witness an act of vengeance, where Albert, the Thief is taken to a point of no redemption. The painting on the wall, strangely reminiscent of Rizzoli’s “The Last Supper” exudes an aura of deceit and violence against the purest souls.

Food, the sacrament of life, is metamorphosed into poison.
Interestingly, it becomes an enactment of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, the sacrificial lamb transformed into food. But then, the act of Albert might have a disturbing Christian consolation : “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[John 6:54]

The story, therefore, problematizes the possibilities and limits of redemption. How far can the holy water cleanse? It may wash away the dirt smeared on a slave by a cruel master, it may cleanse the bodies of the blood stained stink from rotten flesh, but when it comes to the blood stained soul of a murderer, the holy water is not enough.
The story is, therefore, not just about a humiliated woman’s sexual escapades assisted by a friendly associate. It is about cleansing the soul, stained and chained down in inferno.
And the chant of cleansing creates the background through a majestic refrain: “Wash me thoroughly from my inequity…
Heart too filled for ratings.
Please do watch for a visual gourmet and a spiritual ecstasy.
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