Prospero’s Books, 1991

dir. Peter Greenaway


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WARNING: THIS MOVIE IS CRAZY. In fact, there’s a damn good chance it’s the craziest film you’ve ever seen. It’s not exactly The Tempest but in a strange kind of way it’s the essence of The Tempest. I was a notorious insomniac my entire life and then one day I was watching this weird movie late at night and about half an hour in I fell asleep to John Gielgud’s deep, booming voice uttering the incantations of Prospero the Magus. He keeps repeating various lines from the script like a narrator – or a sorcerer summoning a spirit morelike – over and over again, throughout the film. This makes up for ‘the script’ if it can be called that and I don’t think anyone else barely utters a word, despite there being a whole ensemble cast of mega-watt stars. That night I slept so deeply and so well that when I awoke in the morning I couldn’t believe what had happened. The lights were still on, the dvd had long since finished and the blank screen of my desktop had been staring at me all night. But I had slept like a growing baby. I had dreamt like Mercutio. Perhaps this sounds like the movie was super-boring because it put me to sleep – it certainly is, I promise you that. But things don’t always have to be entertaining to be astonishing. Watching it again, I was entirely fascinated after that. If ever there was a film that truly had ‘magic in the web of it’ (as Othello would say) this film is it; I have never had sleeping trouble since that experience and ever since watching it I have had a new mystical presence in my perception of the world. Now, I don’t know about you, but for me at least that’s the very hallmark of a five star film. Funny, because plenty of people (most I would expect) will think this movie is a bit of a joke.

 

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WARNING AGAIN: THIS FILM IS SOOOOO WEIRD. I mean, it's Peter Greenway, come on. There is no movie like it in the world. FACT. The whole thing is sort of a two and half hour long operatic ‘montage’ of The Tempest. The music is incredible and plays throughout, from start to finish, not unlike a concert of sorts. I would happily pay fifty pounds for a back-row seat just to hear the score alone performed by a live ensemble orchestra. It’s not often that I’m lost for words but I must say that trying to explain this film is a futile effort. It must be seen to be believed. Many people won’t like it. But if you have an open mind and a respect for the intelligence-of-the-heart then this film will be one hell of an experience. I think, much like the secret magic of the initiate, you must see this when your mind is in that sphere of the ever fluctuating zone and not otherwise. It is breathtaking for those who are prepared. It will be garbage for those who are not. You have been warned.

 

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