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Prospero's Books

Prospero's Books (1991)



Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 16 | Rotten: 8

There is no middle ground for viewers of Peter Greenaway's work, but for his fans, Prospero's Books is reliably daring.


Average Rating: 5.6/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 3

There is no middle ground for viewers of Peter Greenaway's work, but for his fans, Prospero's Books is reliably daring.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 3,918

My Rating

Movie Info

Puzzle-master Peter Greenaway exposes another aspect of his peculiar obsessions to the filmgoing public. Prospero's Books uses Shakespeare as a foundation and then skips along to define its own lush territory. The books of the title are briefly referenced in The Tempest -- Prospero is a magician who gets to keep only a small fragment of his enormous library when he is exiled with his daughter to an enchanted island. In the film, Prospero is played by Sir John Gielgud. Indeed, everybody is voiced

Oct 22, 1992

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Latest News on Prospero's Books

March 7, 2008:
Paper Magazine Compiles Top Ten Worst Nude Scenes of All Time
Nude scenes: we love them. Well, most of the time, anyway.


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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (8)

The product of a feverish, overflowing imagination, this almost impossibly dense take on The Tempest displays both the director's audacious brilliance and lewd extravagance at full tilt.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Gone is any sense of drama or character; the cluttered spectacle yields no overriding design but simply disconnected MTV-like conceits or mini-ideas every three seconds.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To some degree, the relentless proliferation of ideas smothers the dramatic highs and lows, but this is a minor quibble compared to the sheer ambition and audacity of the overall conception.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Greenaway is not a frivolous film maker. He doesn't shoot a lot of material with the expectation of stumbling upon a found object within. His films are planned from the first frame to the last.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Greenaway bombards you with images, with no regard for the average attention span. Is he a genius or a fake? Debating that question is almost as stimulating as watching a Greenaway film.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
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Prospero's Books references the masterpieces of the past in a manner that antagonizes our pleasure in the arts rather than enhancing it.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Does it work? That depends on whether you find Greenaway's elaborate visual conceits and rarified narrative structures daring and liberating, or boringly self-indulgent.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Lubricious biblophilia rubbing up against a warehouse of naked extras, this Shakespearean adaptation is, in many ways, the epitome of cinematic pretension.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

It cries out to not only be heard but be seen for what it wishes to convey about the act of creativity.

August 29, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Gielgud's voice has the ability to put you right to sleep with its bass and monotone timbre. The good news is that when you wake up, you won't have missed a thing.

October 27, 2002 Full Review Source:

There's nothing quite like it in all of cinema -- and that's either a very good thing, or a very perplexing one, depending on how you feel about Greenaway's work.

July 30, 2002 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

... quite pretentious and much ado about nothing.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

When all is said and done, it's a Tempest in a teapot.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Because Greenaway is working familiar Shakespearean territory, he and cohort Sacha Vierny run wild with the visuals, embedding frames within frames, composing each shot like an independent work of art.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus

It's not concerned with anything but being hypnotic and using film's plastic elements to its extremes, or at least as far as Greenaway can take it.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

This is a fantasy film that does a great deal that is new but one I cannot recommend without strong reservations.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Prospero's Books

An adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" with John Gielgud as Prospero, featuring decadent sets, nude spirits, sumptuous video overlays, optical tricks, and animated books. Paintings from the Old Masters come to life and morph into each other as Gielgud reads almost every line of the play; even if you hate it, it's impossible not to be impressed by the massive scale and detail of this encyclopedic movie. Sadly, there is no decent way to legitimately see this in Region 1; the exsiting DVD release is a criminally muddled, pan-and-scan transfer of the VHS release. This is the kind of movie the Blu-ray format was invented for.
February 5, 2013
Greg S

Super Reviewer

It is a great Movie, what is wrong with you guys?
December 11, 2009
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

Sorry I hate Greenaway. He is only director who puts me in a coma through repetition of sounds and images. I have never understood it and I doubt I ever will.
February 24, 2012
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

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Foreign Titles

  • Los libros de Próspero (ES)
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