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Prospero's Books (1991) ( L'ultima tempesta )

John Gielgud , Michael Clark , Peter Greenaway    DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: John Gielgud, Michael Clark, Michel Blanc, Erland Josephson, Isabelle Pasco
  • Directors: Peter Greenaway
  • Format: Import, PAL, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Swedish, Danish, Finnish
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0045MM8RW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,600 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Danish Edition, PAL/Region 2 DVD: Subtitles: Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish. 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'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars spirited 10 Jan 2008
By emmcol
Format:VHS Tape
I must admit I don't like Greenaway as a rule, and I find Prospero one of Shakespeare's least appealing characters. But this film is quite extraordinary in all sorts of respects. Nyman's music is fantastic, and used here to good effect (Nyman didn't think so, and broke up with Greenaway as a result, but that's his problem). Ditto Sarah Leonard's singing. An ancient Gielgud is splendid as Prospero. Michael Clark's performance as Caliban has to be seen to be believed. The visuals are unlike anything else you have ever seen. (What sort of casting agency can come up with about 100 people aged from about 5 to about 80, all naked for all of the time? Perhaps they are the members of a naturist club? They play the "spirits" of the island.) The idea of focusing on the Books is original, and developed to good effect. If this film has a weak point, it is Miranda. Isabelle Pasco's acting is wooden (maybe we're spoilt by Toyah Wilcox's performance in Jarman's Tempest film).
Why no DVD? One of the mysteries of modern life.
Incidentally there is a "book of the film" consisting of photos of the cast mostly "off-stage". It's called Prospero's Subjects, was published in Japan and is almost impossible to get hold of. But worth trying.

Since I wrote the above, I note that a DVD has appeared.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars john gielgud's ultimate monologue 19 Mar 2011
An adaptation of Shakespeare's " the tempest",in one great uninterupted monologue by sir John Gielgud , preformed in lavish decor of mute actor's and grand architectural setpieces . It's quite heavy handed, but you have to undergo the experience to be rewarded. Typical "Greenaway" paintinglike shot's are the dvd's price worth.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
It may be useful to keep in mind the following story, possibly apocryphal, when discussing Prospero's Books: a famous practitioner of Far Eastern music was being entertained in Europe and was taken to a concert featuring the music of a Baroque master. Afterwards he was asked how he enjoyed the music. He replied that it was nothing but childish drivel.
If you enjoy Shakespeare, "art", "film-making", music, dance, visual spectacle, and originality, then you will likely enjoy this film at some level. Although difficult to find, Noel Cobb's book Prospero's Island will add greatly to your enjoyment since it contains a very lucid explication of the psychology of The Tempest on which Prospero's Books is based. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the director, Peter Greenaway, read this book as part of the preparation for this film.
I would also like to issue the following challenge: try to detect even one individual among the dozens of actors, extras and dancers in Prospero's Books who does not appear to be completely immersed in the creation of this remarkable film.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magical interpretation misses widescreen 25 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Prospero's Book's is for me the height of Peter Greenaways'skills. Shakespeare's 'Tempest' transformed into a truely mystical and magical world as it should be in the most picturesque way. Using film to it's fully potential with insent boxes, etc. You wonder sometimes which film you should be watching. Gielgud's performance enhances the magical qualities by giving us a Merlinesque portrayal of Prospero as a man whose already capable powers as Duke of Milan are enhanced by the fabulous and fantastic books that have been sent with him to his fair Isle. The desciptions of which provide entertaining and often humourous interludes to the build up of the well known text of the story and perhaps our book The Tempest. A must see, again and again. Four stars only though as without a widescreen version too much is missing.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Prospero's Books is nothing less than an almost overwhelming feast of images, stuffed with charms, magic and metaphors. It is Peter Greenaway's vision of what The Tempest might have been had Prospero used those 24 books of great knowledge and magic he took with him when he was sent into exile by his brother. Prospero had been the Duke of Milan when he was overthrown. Twelve years later he inhabits an island with his daughter, Miranda, who was three when they were sent away. There is Caliban, of course, a "freckled whelp, hag-born," but all the other inhabitants are sprites and spirits. And now Prospero, delving into his books and writing his story, imagines his revenge. The first of his books is The Book of Water, a tome of parchment pages that bring rain and mist and dripping tears. As Prospero lies in a pool and writes, his captured sprite, the child Ariel, urinates spell-like into the calm water, and we see Prospero's tale of a vast tempest that brings to the shore of his island his enemies, and the son of one of them. As Prospero writes we see the books and the images from them...The Book of Mirrors, The Book of Colours, The Atlas Belonging to Orpheus, A Primer of Small Stars, The Book of Utopias, The Book of Love..."drawings of a naked man and a naked woman. Everything else is conjecture." From these books we flow into Prospero's magic world of revenge, as he takes the knowledge of his books to add layers to his plans and his story. Yet when Miranda spies young Ferdinand she falls immediately in love. Having only known her father and the scabrous Caliban, Ferdinand is the most beautiful creature she has ever seen. "O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in't!" she cries. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars No helpful evaluation here
I'm sorry but I have not seen it because it was purchased as a gift. My brother had seen this movie years ago and he wanted to see it again. Read more
Published 4 days ago by ElenaDelfina
4.0 out of 5 stars Gielgud at his best!
The original movie was in English and this one opens in Polish or some other language. The film itself is marvelous high art and truly fabulous in conception. Read more
Published 5 months ago by JC47
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Special
Peter Greenaway does it again. Absolutely mind-bending with the inimitable Gielgud proving age was no barrier. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kevin G Blake
2.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Misguided
Greenaway was the Belle Du Jour in the late 80's early 90's - certainly The Cook The Wife The Thief and Her Lover was a meaty film - but Prospero's books was slighly misguided and... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dan Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Good interpretation of The tempest.
I think Shakespeare would have loved this unusual interpretation of his play, The Tempest. If you love his work then this is definitely one to buy. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sparrow
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a Classic
I bought it for my husband. He is thrilled to have it in his collection. He has wanted it for some time.
Published 11 months ago by booksal
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tempest for Greenaway and Gielgud fans
The Books are central to this deconstruction of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". John Geilgud voices the text, while we are shown voluptuous images of the books interlaced with... Read more
Published 11 months ago by A MOYES
3.0 out of 5 stars An interpretation of the play "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare
Prospero's Books (1991) Director Peter Greenaway seems to be an inspiring Fellini. The problem with making that comparison is that, regardless of whether you like this sort of... Read more
Published 14 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great service
Excellent service with great follow up advice on how to get the best from this imported product.
Customer friendly shopping
Published 18 months ago by DAVID WRIGHT
4.0 out of 5 stars Better pictures, worse sound
I agree with the earlier comment: the sound is fainter and fuzzier than on the old VHS videotape version, but I'll settle for that in exchange for the vastly improved picture... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Alan Fisk
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