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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: April ::
Prospero's Books (Cont'd)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 83. Monday, 13 Apr 1992.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Thu, 9 Apr 1992 10:01 CDT
	From: 	Ben Schneider 
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	Subj: 	Re: SHK 3.0081  Rs: *Prospero's Books*
 
(2)	Date: 	Thu, 9 Apr 1992 12:43:00 -0400
	From: 	GEOFF WALL <
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 >
	Subj:  	Prospero's books
 
 
(1)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Thu, 9 Apr 1992 10:01 CDT
From: 		Ben Schneider 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
Subject: 3.0081  Rs: *Prospero's Books*
Comment: 	Re: SHK 3.0081  Rs: *Prospero's Books*
 
Despite all the hullabaloo and distraction, the Greenaway version has a per-
fectly conventional, old-fashioned interpretation of the play:  Pros-
pero reforms and they all live happily ever after.  The conspirators
are still lurking in the background, but that is always true.  Stripes
don't change:  you are either a Gonzalo or a nay-sayer.
 
Ben Schneider
Lawrence U in Wisconsin
 
(2)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Thu, 9 Apr 1992 12:43:00 -0400
From: 		GEOFF WALL <
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 >
Subject:  	Prospero's books
 
A sumptious erudite phantasy spun out between the lines of The
Tempest.  Memorable Visual splendours and  ingenuities, some
great ideas, but it lacks subtlety and dramatic detail.
 
The device of having Gielgud do all the voices doesn't work in the
way that it is supposed to.  It erases the dramatic situation in
favour of a one dimensional theorem about Prospero's power.  It
has its moments, but most of the time I was longing for other
voices; and unless you already know the play very well, it makes
it very difficult to work out what is going on, because the
transitions from one notional speaker to the next are not at all
clear to the listener.  So that for example in the scene of the first
meeting between Ferdinand and Miranda, the tension is missing.
In the scene of the plot against the sleeping courtiers, it is not all
clear what is happening, who is about to do what to who.
 
I did like the device of displaying much of the action that is
merely described. It made me think much more clearly about the
shadowy areas of the play:  the court in Milan, Prospero's wife,
Miranda as a child, the slaughter in the palace when Prospero is
ousted, the horror of Sycorax giving birth, the bizarre tableau of
Prospero's pregnant wife peeling her belly to reveal the foetus
pulsing with blood, the horror of the forced marriage of Claribel to
the African King (we see a blank Klimt-like woman, then we see
her lying naked, hands covering her genitals, covered in the blood
of her deflowering).
 
An extraordinary Caliban: naked, perfect white body, hairless,
athletic ballet movements, twisting and moving to a strange
rhythm, like a reptile, half covered in blue tattoos, like the John
White Indians, his genitals picked out in strong bright colours, red
and blue and orange.
 
The music was quite wrong. It had no real variety.  It was the
standard Greenaway fast throbbing two-four rhythm on loud
brass instruments.  The singing in the masque was such as to make
the words inaudible.  Ariel's songs were rendered in a powerful
alto voice, supernatural, but uniformly piercing.
 
The finale was thrown away.  A long static take of the staged
reconciliation, as if renouncing, for this scene alone, all cinematic
devices, but falling into a rather dull conventional theatricality.
 
The epilogue was marred by the use of electronic echo laid on top
of Prospero's voice.
 
The drowning of the books was the rival cinematic epilogue.
 
Dozens of beautiful naked bodies moving all the time in the
background:  swimming or dancing or standing as statues.  This
is a wonderful way to represent the company of spirits.  Naked
glory: human in form but with a splendor and an energy that is
more than human.
 

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