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United Kingdom 1991
Directed by
Peter Greenaway
106 minutes
Rated M

2 stars

Prospero's Books

At the best of times filmed Shakespeare can require forbearance, its antiquated language and studied self-awareness sitting uneasily with the conventions of modern cinema. With Peter Greenaway’s visually overpowering reworking of the Bard’s 'The Tempest' it is virtually unbearable, John Gielgud's sonorous enunciation doing nothing to imbue proceediings with anything that one might describe as meaning.

As a result with Prospero's Books, to cite Marshall McLuhan “the medium is the message”. Greenaway’s regular collaborator, cinematographer Sacha Vierny records stunning visuals whilst the production design by Ben Van Os and Jan Roelfs is breathtaking.

You can't help but ask not only, given the limited audience for this kind of film, where the money came from to mount this lavish spectacle, but also “So what?” It is a question that is as characteristic of Greenaway’s work as is its cleverness, erudition and the presence of men’s and ladies’ bits. Sophisticated as it is at one level and no matter how artistically presented, one cannot help but feel that there’s a core of English prurience and art school narcissism to it all. 

DVD Extras: None.

Available in Umbrella Entertainment’s 8 disc box set that also includes A Draughtman’s Contract, A Zed & Two Noughts, Drowning By Numbers, The Baby Of Mâcon, The Pillow Book, 8 ½ Women and a 1992 documentary on the director and his work.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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