Joy Day - Drowning by Numbers


For Joy Day, Susan Omand counts on Drowning by Numbers to cheer her up...

I first watched Peter Greenaway’s Drowning by Numbers sometime in the early 1990’s. Well, I say watched, that’s not strictly true because I couldn’t have told you anything about the plot of the film or who was in it or even whether or not I enjoyed it. This is because one of my friends told me that the numbers 1 to 100 were hidden throughout the film and it became my mission to locate them all.

Now, let me make this clear, I don’t have OCD – that is a real and serious illness and I would not belittle those who suffer with it to say that any issues I have are on anything like the same scale – but I do tend to get obsessed by little things. I spent months trying to find the final 3 billboards to crash through in Burnout Paradise, for example, and I need to finish any crossword that I start, no matter how long it takes. I became a bit obsessed with car adverts on the TV for a while, because I was sure I saw the same number plate on two different makes of car and had to see if that was true for any of the rest of them, and don’t get me started on the light switch at the bottom of the stairs (just that one though, the rest are no problem) – just little inconsequential things. So, knowing that a film had numbers (another little foible of mine – I’m the only person I know that lists maths as a hobby and has a spreadsheet of prime numbers so I can try to find the formula that links them) hidden throughout it was more than I could ignore – I had to find them. And, like every obsession, (apart from the light switch one) once I had found them all and completed the self imposed challenge, the film got completely forgotten about... until recently. I found a copy of Drowning by Numbers on DVD in a charity shop and bought it, thinking “Now’s my chance to actually watch the film and enjoy it” and it would give me something to write about for Joy Day, as finding the numbers had already made me happy, so here goes.

The film opens with...

...oh, who am I trying to kid? Here’s the list of timings where you can find all the numbers 1-100 in Drowning By Numbers. Have fun!



Locations of numbers 1 - 100 (all times recorded approximately)



1. On a tree trunk. Time 3 minutes 7 seconds



2. On a tin bath. Time 5.55



3. On Jake's shirt. Time 7.10

4. Jake's speech - FOUR in hand, a card game. Time 8.07

5. Jake's speech - FIVE card stud, a card game. Time 8.08



6. Beside Madgett's telephone. Time 11.33



7. On a table beside Smut's playing cards. Time 11.48

8. On a digital alarm clock in Hardy's bedroom (too small to capture). Time 12.18



9. On a key-ring in Hardy's bedroom. Time 12.22

10. Smut shouting TEN has he jumps out of a barn. Time 13.48



11. On a photo of Smut jumping out of a barn. 13.59



12. On a photo of Smut jumping out of a barn. Time 13.59



13. On the side of a barn that Smut is jumping out of. Time 14.07



14. Beside Madgett's telephone in his bedroom. Time 14.08



15. On Madgett's cricket pad. Time 14.08



16. On a wheelbarrow carrying Nancy. Time 15.05



17. Smut's mark of a dead cockerel. Time 15.14



18. On Nancy's rabbit hutches. Time 15.32



19. On Nancy's rabbit hutches. Time 15.35



20. On Nancy's rabbit hutches. Time 15.39



21. On Nancy's front door. Time 15.44



22. Nancy's book, Catch 22. Time 15.54



23. Age on Nancy's birthday card. Time 15.54


24. Smut counting dog hairs. Time 17.32

25. Smut counting dog hairs. Time 17.33

26. Smut counting dog hairs. Time 17.34

27. Smut counting dog hairs. Time 17.35

28. Smut counting dog hairs. Time 17.36



29. Corpse ticket in Smut's matchbox. Time 21.15



30. Amount of matches in Smut's matchbox. Time 21.15



31. Corpse ticket tied to firework. Time 21.23



32. Corpse mark on road. Time 21.24



33. On Smut's stake marking Jake's death. Time 23.18

34. Number of years Cissie 1 says she was married to Jake. Time 24.56

35. Smut mentioning a star, Groombridge 35. Time 26.17



36. On Cissie 3's swimsuit. Time 27.20



37. Insect in Smut's book. Time 31.04

38. Insect in Smut's book. Time 31.04

39. Insect in Smut's book. Time 31.04



40. Dominoes in Madgett's bedroom. 31.54

41. Location of a corpse told by Smut to Sid the Gravedigger. Time 34:12



42. On a beehive. Time 36.04



43. On Cissie 3's swimming cap. Time 36.22



44. On two items in a cubicle. Time 36.51



45. On a bee. Time 38.14

46. On a bee. Time 38.14



47. On a wooden stake in a churchyard. Time 38.18

48. Counted by Cissie 1. Time 38.56



49. On a water tower. Time 40.50



50. Large numbers near a beach. Time 41.42

51. Madgett's speech: 51 runs scored by a batsman. Time 44.18

52. Madgett's speech: Summer of 1952. Time 44.33



53. On a canvas sheet. Time 45.05

54. Sid's speech: A corpse number. Time 47.10



55. On a photo of Nancy. Time 47.51



56. On Madgett's cricket bat. 48.28



57. On the back of Madgett's camera. Time 48.28

58. Madgett's speech: Runs scored by a batsman. Time 48.54



59. On a bowl in Madgett's bedroom. Time 49.00



60. On Smut's shoulder. Time 49.27



61. In Smut's book. Time 51.57

62. In Smut's Book. Time 51.57

63. In Smut's book. Time 51.57



64. On a night time runner. Time 53.28



65. In Hardy's letter. Time 59.36

66. In Hardy's letter. Time 59.36



67. Cissie 2 writes on typewriter. Time 1:03.23

68. Cissie 2 writes on typewriter. Time 1:03.23

69. Cissie 2 writes on typewriter. Time 1:03.23



70. On a runner. Time 1:02.16

71. On a runner. Time 1:02.16

72. In speech: Page 72 in a book. Time 1:07.27



73. On a pew in a chapel. Time 1:07.45



74. Hymn number. Time 1:08.30

75. Smut's speech: 75 players needed for Hangman's Cricket. Time 1:10.22



76. On a live cow. Time 1:11.17



77. On a live cow. Time 1:11.21



78. On a dead cow. Time 1:11.40



79. On a dead cow. Time 1:11.40



80. In Smut's textbook. Time 1:17.08

81. In Smut's textbook. Time 1:17.08

82. In Smut's textbook. Time 1:17.08



83. On a wall entering Smut's bedroom. Time 1:17.38



84. On white paper on a wall entering Smut's bedroom. Time 1:17.45



85. On a key-ring around Cissie 3's neck. Time 1:18.50

86. Cricket score on radio. Time 1:21.02



87. Around Nancy's neck. Time 1:24.12



88. On a motorbike. Time 1:26.00



89. On the back of a clipboard. Time 1:26.45



90. Above a bar. Time 1:27.10



91. On Smut's tree. Time 1:27.49



92. On a dead fish. Time 1:31.41

93. On a dead fish. Time 1:31.41

94. On a dead fish. Time 1:31.41



95. On a runner in front of skipping girl. Time 1:36.25



96. On a runner. Time 1:41.14



97. On a taxi's number plate. Time 1:40.13



98. On a car's number plate. Time 1:40.13



99. On paper hanging from Smut. Time 1:43.20



100. On Madgett's rowing boat. Time 1:48.55


Images and timing info from http://petergreenaway.org.uk/numberloc.htm