Prospero's Books
Want to See
Not Interested
Rate it ½ star
Rate it 1 star
Rate it 1½ stars
Rate it 2 stars
Rate it 2½ stars
Rate it 3 stars
Rate it 3½ stars
Rate it 4 stars
Rate it 4½ stars
Rate it 5 stars
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… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"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."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"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."
‑ Vincent Canby, New York Times
"Does it work? That depends on whether you find Greenaway's elaborate visual conceits and rarified narrative structures daring and liberating, or boringly self-indulgent."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"Gielgud's voice has the ability to put you right to sleep with its bass and monotone timbre. The good news is that when you wake up, you won't have missed a thing."
‑ Christopher Null, Filmcritic.com
"When all is said and done, it's a Tempest in a teapot."
‑ Steve Davis, Austin Chronicle
"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."
‑ Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"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."
‑ Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Lubricious biblophilia rubbing up against a warehouse of naked extras, this Shakespearean adaptation is, in many ways, the epitome of cinematic pretension."
‑ , Film4
"There's nothing quite like it in all of cinema -- and that's either a very good thing, or a very perplexing one, depending on how you feel about Greenaway's work."
‑ Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
"Because Greenaway is working familiar Shakespearean territory, he and cohort Sacha Vierny run wild with the visuals, embedding frames within frames, composing each shot like an independent work of art."
‑ Bryant Frazer, Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
"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."
‑ Geoff Andrew, Time Out
"Prospero's Books references the masterpieces of the past in a manner that antagonizes our pleasure in the arts rather than enhancing it."
‑ Hal Hinson, Washington Post
"It cries out to not only be heard but be seen for what it wishes to convey about the act of creativity."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"... quite pretentious and much ado about nothing."
‑ Chris Hicks, Deseret News, Salt Lake City
"It's not concerned with anything but being hypnotic and using film's plastic elements to its extremes, or at least as far as Greenaway can take it."
‑ Ted Prigge, rec.arts.movies.reviews
More reviews for Prospero's Books on Rotten Tomatoes