Prospero's Books  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Prospero's Books (1991), written and directed by Peter Greenaway, is a cinematic adaptation of The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. John Gielgud is 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, operatic set pieces, and animation. The film makes extensive (and pioneering) use of digital image manipulation (using 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, displayed with a naturist ethos in keeping with the work's key themes. (i.e. The nude actors and extras represent a realistic cross-section of male and female humanity.)

Plot summary

The daughter of Prospero, an exiled magician, falls in love with 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, and is seen writing and speaking the story's action as it unfolds. Prospero's Books is a complex tale based upon William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Ariel is played by three actors — a boy, an adolescent, and a youth. Each represents a classical elemental. The boy represents water, and is shown perpetually urinating. Conservative movie critic Michael Medved attacked the scene of Ariel urinating from a swing in "The Urge to Offend" chapter of his book Hollywood vs. America.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Prospero's Books" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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