Prospero's Books (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes

Prospero's Books (1991)

Prospero's Books (1991)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

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

Prospero's Books Photos

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 by Gielgud as he describes the events that unfold. But mostly, he describes the books, and as he does, the screen fills with florid calligraphies, astonishing diagrams, extravagant paintings, and lots and lots of naked people.
Rating:
R
Genre:
Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
NHK

Cast

John Gielgud
as Prospero
Michael Clark
as Caliban
Michel Blanc
as Alonso
Isabelle Pasco
as Miranda
Tom Bell
as Antonio
Kenneth Cranham
as Sebastian
Mark Rylance
as Ferdinand
Pierre Bokma
as Francisco
Michiel Romeyn
as Stephano
Orpheo
as Ariel
Emil Wolk
as Ariel
Ute Lemper
as Ceres
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Prospero's Books

Critic Reviews for Prospero's Books

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (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.

Full Review… | July 3, 2008
Variety
Top 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.

Full Review… | July 3, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top 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.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top 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.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top 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
Top Critic

Prospero's Books references the masterpieces of the past in a manner that antagonizes our pleasure in the arts rather than enhancing it.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Prospero's Books

Visually phenomenal de facto stage adaptation of 'The Tempest' with 82-year-old John Gielgud reciting nearly every line of dialogue! Moving sets, film overlays, animation, and all sorts of old-school camera tricks really arrest the eyes, which is a must to get through the lengthy and often laborious monologues. Also contains the largest number of naked people in a single movie that I or anyone else has ever seen, including anything from Caligula to Gonzo Gangbangs Vols. 1-6. The kind of film you'll want to watch once but likely only once.

Doctor Strangeblog
Doctor Strangeblog

Super Reviewer

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.

Greg S
Greg S

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.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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