Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Odd, Layered Opening of Prospero's Books

Prospero's Books. Dir. Peter Greenaway. Perf. Sir John Guelgud, Michael Clark, Isabelle Pasco, and Orpheo. 1991. Videocassette. Media / Video Treasures, 1996.

Thanks to the good people of my local libary, I was able to get a copy of Prospero's Books.

Kudos to them (I really don't like that phrase—don't know why I used it) and to the delightful principle of inter-library loan.

Marvelous. Now, on to the blog post proper.

The opening screen of Prospero's Books reads, in part, as follows:

One evening, Prospero imagines
creating a storm powerfrul enough to
bring his old enemies to his island.
He begins to write a play
about this tempest,
speaking aloud the lines
of each of his characters.
It is the story of Prospero's past,
and his revenge . . .

After that, we get this opening, which describes the first in a series of "books" that surround the imagined creation of the play about the tempest. The film is a bit odd—but it's also really rich. And Sir John Guelgud's voice, even with so simple a word as "Boatswain," is remarkable beyond all telling of it.

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest