6.9/10
5,496
82 user 22 critic

Prospero's Books (1991)

The magician Prospero attempts to stop his daughter's affair with an enemy.

Director:

Peter Greenaway
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Gielgud ... Prospero
Michael Clark Michael Clark ... Caliban
Michel Blanc ... Alonso
Erland Josephson ... Gonzalo
Isabelle Pasco ... Miranda
Tom Bell ... Antonio
Kenneth Cranham ... Sebastian
Mark Rylance ... Ferdinand
Gerard Thoolen ... Adrian
Pierre Bokma ... Francisco
Jim van der Woude Jim van der Woude ... Trinculo
Michiel Romeyn Michiel Romeyn ... Stephano
Orpheo Orpheo ... Ariel
Paul Russell Paul Russell ... Ariel
James Thierrée James Thierrée ... Ariel (as James Thiérrée)
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Storyline

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'. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A magician's spell, the innocence of young love and a dream of revenge unite to create a tempest.

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Netherlands | France | Italy | Japan

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 August 1991 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Última Tempestade See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£1,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$1,750,301
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Allarts,Cinéa,Caméra One See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the first films to use HDTV technology; 'Prospero's Books' specifically utilized an early analogue high-definition process called 'Hi-Vision' developed by the Japanese group NHK. See more »

Connections

Version of The Tempest (1908) See more »

Soundtracks

Prospero's Magic
Written by Michael Nyman
See more »

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User Reviews

A Masterful Film about the Limits of Film
30 April 2000 | by tedgSee all my reviews

I'm attracted to competence, and especially when the vision is unusual and moving. But I love self-referential art, in this case a movie that includes as part (in fact the center) of its message some perspective on what the movie is all about.

This film is one of my most valued experiences, and here, I'll just write about the self-reference. For this, you have to know the context of the play itself. `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.

But there's a deeper irony. Some think Prospero was modeled after John Dee, but this is likely not so, Instead the model was Magus Thomas Harriot who actually did visit the New World and report strange happenings. (In the winter of 1585, he wintered with Algonquian priests probably on, certainly near the land I'm writing from.) Harriot was the age's greatest scientist, but we hardly know him because he never wrote any books as he was under constant examination for heresy. There's lots to his story, all which Shakespeare would have known and partly lived, and the notion of Prospero's Books would have been especially rich at the time of writing.

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.

It's all so well conceived. I'll let others comment on the execution, which seems masterful to me. This film will live very long, and you will be less impoverished by seeing/experiencing it.


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