Prospero''s Books (1991)



ӡѺ: Peter Greenaway
¹: Peter Greenaway

оѹ: William Shakespeare

John Gielgud ... Prospero
Michael Clark ... Caliban
Michel Blanc ... Alonso
Erland Josephson ... Gonzalo
: 124 min
:  France
:  English | UK

: Fantasy | Drama

: ѧ

An exiled magician finds an opportunity for revenge against his enemies muted when his daughter and the son of his chief enemy fall in love in this uniquely structured retelling of the ''The Tempest''.
The Tempest played out in dance and words; all the dialog is spoken by Sir John throughout the film. The ''books'' form the central plot, Prospero''s magic depending on them.

Peter Greenaway is one of the great filmmakers, with an original and personal vision. This movie is a marvelous mixture of Shakespeare, visual poetry, music, art ... a feast for the imagination. This dazzling blend of technology, allegory and imagination is a multi-layered treat for those who seek the art that video and the digital world promise. Do not expect rationality or straight-line logic. Rather, enjoy this as a unique and idiosyncratic artistic cinematic vision. Pure cinema. All you need to know is the basic story of "The Tempest".

`The Tempest'' was written at the end of Shakespeare''s career. Earlier, he had composed some of the richest drama that may ever be created. In so doing, the technique -- at least in the great plays -- was to grapple with great forces and ideas and project then into stories. The theatric convention of the days was one of sparse presentation: few props, sets, costumes. But towards the end of Shakespeare''s life, the conventions changed. Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones had introduced the notion of lush, magical special effects, and even popularized productions that consisted of nothing at all but the effects themselves. Shakespeare''s prior efforts were deep structures which use the sparse conventions of the theater, without undue obfuscation from those. But here he was asked to produce, even compete, using techniques whose very nature is to distract. So he wrote a play about visual effects that obfuscate and manipulate, while using visual effects to the same end.

Cinema is a medium which is all effects, nothing but illusion, and thus is nearly impossible to use as a lens for true visions of the world. So here we have Greenaway''s film in which illusion is the point of the immensely clever theatric notion of Prospero''s Books. The books are both the illusions and the distorted lens, and turned here into a means to make a film purely about what it means to be a film, and to do so with specific reference to Shakespeare''s structure about the similar problem in the effect-laden theater. Moreover, Shakespeare''s reference is to Harriot''s earlier, similar conundrum between the motions of the great world and the imperfect lens of logic that is required to capture some image of those laws in books.


BAFTA Awards
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1992 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Special Visual Effects
Frans Wamelink
Eve Ramboz
Masao Yamaguchi

Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1992 Nominated International Fantasy Film Award Best Film
Peter Greenaway

London Critics Circle Film Awards
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1992 Won ALFS Award British Technical Achievement of the Year
Peter Greenaway (director)

Nederlands Film Festival
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1991 Won Golden Calf Best Film (Beste Lange Speelfilm)
Kees Kasander

Venice Film Festival
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1991 Nominated Golden Lion
Peter Greenaway

Warsaw International Film Festival
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1992 Won Audience Award
Peter Greenaway