Prospero's Books (1991)

reviewed by
Pedro Sena


Copyright (c) Pedro Sena 1994
FILM TITLE:               PROSPERO'S BOOKS
DIRECTOR:               PETER GREENAWAY
COUNTRY:                 ENGLAND/USA ( 1992 )
CAST:                        John Gielgud, Michael Clark, Michel Blanc,
Erland Josephson, Isabelle Pasco.
MUSIC:                  Michael Nyman
SUPER FEATURES:         This modern day Fellini wants to drive Fellini out
of the history books.  He succeeds and does better.
      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Shakespeare can be fun.
Shakespeare can be weird.
And Shakespeare can be done, well,..... like only crazies can do it, like
Peter Greenaway.

BUT IS NOT WILLIE SHAKESPEARE FOR THE MASSES.

And in many ways, Shakespeare's works are perfect for the movie screen, because his characters think, dream, and have visions, in other words, have such a visual acuity, that it actually can be shown in the celluloid, where it can not on the stage. One can make all the wishes, dreams, and visions, really live in any character's mind--- and the play gets better and stronger still.

And the way the director shows this freedom, is with as much nakedness as he can get away with, under the boundaries of good taste, and possible censorship. The nakedness here is an excellent symbol of the freedom of mind and word, which Prospero wants, and keeps under wraps at almost all times. It is a really good analogy for the whole play, and one that most people are afraid to tackle. And Greenaway does, like no other. And in one film he manages to ditch down the drain all the good actors who were capable of helping you see a truth through their perfect diction........and done by a true master of diction himself, SIR JOHN GIELGUD. It is truly beautiful at times, and odd at others, but the end result, is an evening that ends with one wondering what is it exactly that we have just seen, and what exactly was it about, and how, and how does it all come together...??? All in all, the very thing which film has forgotten under the guise and direction of people who only do and show entertainment, instead of art.

In his island, Prospero rules. There he has all the arts to his disposal, and the ability to make anything happen. And there he also has the ability to outgrow himself, thus making possible his ascension as a magician of good capabilities, which is all well and fine within the confines of the play itself. And in this island every nymph, satyr, and angel that has ever lived owes it to be a part of a man's vision.

The film moves back and forth between images and pictures from Renaissance texts to actual image on the screen, thus also blending the creativity, and avid curiosity, of a time that has appeared very boring in the history books. The books on magic and any kind of experimentation was plentiful, and the likes of DaVinci, were a part of it. And Prospero wants to be in league with the best of them.

Aside from the fact that this film is really unusual, and not specially made for everyone to see and learn about Shakespeare, it is without any doubt a very serious, dare I say Busby Berkeley- like, show about the thinking of a man who has much depth......and we are let into his chambers of mind and depth, to learn about him, and his world.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS FILM IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN TRULLY MODERN ADAPTATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE'S WORK. IT IS EXCELLENT. JOHN GIELGUD REALLY DESERVES A MENTION FOR AN OSCAR AT LEAST........HE IS ONE OF THE VERY BEST, and his eloquent delivery, so gentle, so powerful, so clear, will leave you gasping....the words are so alive.....

THE BEST GREENAWAY FILM YET, and for once it isn't psychotic, or sickening.

5 GIBLOONS
Copyright (c) Pedro Sena 1994

The review above was posted to the rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup (de.rec.film.kritiken for German reviews).
The Internet Movie Database accepts no responsibility for the contents of the review and has no editorial control. Unless stated otherwise, the copyright belongs to the author.
Please direct comments/criticisms of the review to relevant newsgroups.
Broken URLs in the reviews are the responsibility of the author.
The formatting of the review is likely to differ from the original due to ASCII to HTML conversion.

Related links: index of all rec.arts.movies.reviews reviews