My interest in Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book — other than its style and other than it being a footnote of moving imagery to Sei Shonagon’s memoirs of early Japanese courtlife decorum and debauchery — lie primarily in his treatment on corporal existence and being.
As per Greenaway’s body of work, his other films never fail to make profound connections between perception, love, dying, commitment, solitude, pain, the absurd, language, and art via his own unique approach to filmmaking.
But this movie in particular explores the questions surrounding Body as Object; later on, the film boldly resorts to tearing down the very answers themselves. Flesh, skin, vision, the screen, paper, brush, ink, and mirrored reflections are major themes playing hopscotch in this erotically-charged masterpiece.
This paper is just as fascinating as the film itself. It discusses in depth how The Pillow Book successfully connects the dots between the art of calligraphy, storytelling, lovemaking, awakening, hurting, dying, reader-response, and authorial intent.