British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Prospero’s Books

Synopsis
Feature film based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero is given 24 books to lessen the pain of his exile on a barren island. Greenaway interprets The Tempest as a mind reviewing its entire contents, and these books, which include the text of the film, comprise a collection of all knowledge, and also allude to many of Greenaway’s earlier films. A commentary on the play is supplied by images of the books, generated by high-definition television and computer paintbox graphics.
Language
English
Country
France; Great Britain; Italy; Netherlands
Medium
Film
Technical information
Black-and-white / Sound
Year of release
1991
Duration
120 mins

Credits

Director
Peter Greenaway
Producer
Kees Kasander
Cinematographer
Sacha Vierny
Screenplay
Peter Greenaway
Music
Michael Nyman
Art Direction
Eljo Embregts; Wilma Schuemie
Cast
John GielgudProspero
Isabelle PascoMiranda
Paul RussellAriel
Michael ClarkCaliban
Mark RylanceFerdinand
Erland JosephsonGonzalo
Gerard ThoolenAdrian
Jim van der WoudeTrinculo
Kenneth CranhamSebastian
Michel BlancAlonso
Michiel RomeynStephano
Pierre BokmaFrancisco
Tom BellAntonio
Ute LempeCeres

Additional Details

Production type
Fiction Films
Plays
Tempest, The
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Related items
Peter Greenaway: Anatomy of a Film-Maker
Walk Through Prospero’s Library, A

Notes

General
According to Greenaway, Prospero’s books (the twenty four books given to him by Gonzalo before his exile) were: The Book of Water, A Book of Mirrors, A Book of Mythologies, A Primer of the Small Stars, An Atlas Belonging to Orpheus, A Harsh Book of Geometry, The Book of Colours, The Vesalius Anatomy of Birth, An Alphabetical Inventory of the Dead, A Book of Travellers’ Tales, the Book of the Earth, A Book of Architecture and Other Music, The Ninety-Two Conceits of the Minotaur, The Book of Languages, End-Plants, A Book of Love, A Bestiary of Past, Present and Future Animals, The Book of Utopias, The Book of Universal Cosmography, Love of Ruins, The Autobiographies of Pasiphae and Semiramis, A Book of Motion, The Book of Games, and Thirty-Six Plays (the latter volume with nineteen pages left blank at the front for the inclusion of the first play, ‘The Tempest’).
Figures
$1, 750,301 Total Lifetime Gross (USA) - Box Office Mojo 2005
Reviews
Donaldson, Peter S. ‘Shakespeare in the Age of Post-Mechanical Reproduction: Sexual and Electronic Magic in PROSPERO’S BOOKS’. in Burt, Richard & Boose, Lynda E. Shakespeare the Movie, II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video and DVD (New York & London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 105-119.

Production Company

Name

Allarts

Name

Cinea/Camera One

Name

Penta

Distributor

Name

Moviemail

Web
https://www.simplyhe.com/3000-moviemail External site opens in new window
Phone
0844 848 2000
Address
Simply Home Entertainment
PO Box 7741
Ringwood
BH24 9FA
UK
Notes
As of December 2016 the Moviemail web presence is incorporated within the Simply Media website

Distributor (Sale)

Name

Retail outlets

Record Stats

This record has been viewed 680 times.