GenreFantasy, Drama Initial DVD releaseOctober 22, 1992 CountryUnited Kingdom
Release date30 August 1991 (1991-08-30) (United Kingdom)
15 November 1991 (1991-11-15) (United States; limited)
6 December 1991 (1991-12-06) (Australia) WriterWilliam Shakespeare (play), Peter Greenaway Initial releaseAugust 30, 1991 (United Kingdom) CastJohn Gielgud (Prospero), Michael Clark (Caliban), Michel Blanc (Alonso), Erland Josephson (Gonzalo), Isabelle Pasco (Miranda), Tom Bell (Antonio) Similar moviesRelated Peter Greenaway movies
TaglineA magician's spell, the innocence of young love and a dream of revenge unite to create a tempest.
Michael nyman prospero s books
Prospero's Books is a 1991 British avant-garde film adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, written and directed by Peter Greenaway. John Gielgud plays Prospero, the protagonist who provides the off-screen narration and the voices to the other story characters. Stylistically, Prospero's Books is narratively and cinematically innovative in its techniques, combining mime, dance, opera, and animation. Edited in Japan, the film makes extensive use of digital image manipulation (using Hi-Vision video inserts and the Paintbox system), often overlaying multiple moving and still pictures with animations. Michael Nyman composed the musical score and Karine Saporta choreographed the dance. The film is also notable for its extensive use of nudity, reminiscent of Renaissance paintings of mythological characters. The nude actors and extras represent a cross-section of male and female humanity.
Prospero's Books is a complex tale based upon William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, an exiled magician, falls in love with Ferdinand, the son of his enemy; while the sorcerer's sprite, Ariel, convinces him to abandon revenge against the traitors from his earlier life. In the film, Prospero stands in for Shakespeare himself, and is seen writing and speaking the story's action as it unfolds.
Ariel is played by four actors: three acrobats — a boy, an adolescent, and a youth — and a boy singer. Each represents a classical elemental.
The books of Prospero number 24 according to the production design which outlines each volume's content. The list is reminiscent of the lost books of Epicurus.
A Book of Water
A Book of Mirrors
A Book of Mythologies
A Primer of the Small Stars
An Atlas Belonging to Orpheus
A Harsh Book of Geometry
The Book of Colours
The Vesalius Anatomy of Birth
An Alphabetical Inventory of the Dead
A Book of Travellers' Tales
The Book of the Earth
A Book of Architecture and Other Music
The Ninety-Two Conceits of the Minotaur
The Book of Languages
A Book of Love
A Bestiary of Past, Present and Future Animals
The Book of Utopias
The Book of Universal Cosmography
Lore of Ruins
The Autobiographies of Pasiphae and Semiramis
A Book of Motion
The Book of Games
John Gielgud as Prospero
Michael Clark as Caliban
Michel Blanc as Alonso
Erland Josephson as Gonzalo
Isabelle Pasco as Miranda
Tom Bell as Antonio
Kenneth Cranham as Sebastian
Mark Rylance as Ferdinand
Gerard Thoolen as Adrian
Pierre Bokma as Francisco
Jim van der Woude as Trinculo
Michiel Romeyn as Stephano
Paul Russell as Ariel
James Thiérrée as Ariel
Production and financing
John Gielgud said a film of The Tempest (as Prospero, as he had been in four stage productions in 1931, 1940, 1957, and 1974) was his life's ambition. He had approached Alain Resnais, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Orson Welles about directing him in it, Benjamin Britten to compose its score, and Albert Finney to be Caliban, before Greenaway agreed. The closest the earlier attempts came to being made was in 1967, with Welles as both director and as Caliban to Gielgud's Prospero, but after the commercial failure of Welles and Gielgud's Shakespearean film collaboration, Chimes at Midnight, financing for a cinematic The Tempest collapsed.
The film was screened out of competition at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.
This was the last of the collaborations between director Peter Greenaway and composer Michael Nyman. Most of the film's music cues, (excepting Ariel's songs and the Masque) are from an earlier concert, La Traversée de Paris and the score from A Zed & Two Noughts. The soundtrack album is Nyman's sixteenth release.
Produced by David Cunningham
Engineer: Michael J. Dutton
Assistant engineer: Dillon Gallagher (PRT), Chris Brown (Abbey Road Studios)
Mixed by Michael J. Dutton, Michael Nyman, and David Cunningham at PRT Studios and Abbey Road Studios
Edited at Abbey Road Studios by Peter Mew
Art Direction: Ann Bradbeer
Photography: Marc Guillamot
Design: Creative Partnership
Artist representative: Don Mousseau
Aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 67% approval of Prospero's Books, with an average rating of 5.9/10 and a critical consensus of, "There is no middle ground for viewers of Peter Greenaway's work, but for his fans, Prospero's Books is reliably daring." Roger Ebert gave the work three stars out of four and argued, "Most of the reviews of this film have missed the point; this is not a narrative, it need not make sense, and it is not 'too difficult' because it could not have been any less so. It is simply a work of original art, which Greenaway asks us to accept or reject on his own terms."