Gielgud's Prospero speaks to viewers at the end; his head fills the screen and then shrinks and it becomes like one of those superimposed images that have been used throughout the film. Roger Ebert commented ' … this is not a movie in the sense that we usually employ that word; it's an experiment in form and content. It is likely to bore most audiences, but will entrap others--especially those able to free themselves from the notion that movies must tell stories. This film should be approached like a record album or an art book.
Each "page" is there to be studied in its complexity and richness … ' Leonard Maltin was reserved, commenting 'Original, daring but unsatisfactory adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with almost all of the dialogue spoken by year-old Gielgud in the role of Prospero ; the other actors are little more than extras, and there's a mindboggling amount of nudity. Crammed with stunning, layered imagery, beautiful production design and cinematography—all of which tends to lessen the impact of the dialogue'.
Personally, first time, I did not enjoy hearing Gielgud's voice throughout the film. I immensely enjoyed his Hamlet, the audio cassette of which I have played literally hundreds of time. I was very dismayed when I heard something else with him in when he used the same voice and again with the next play.
After hearing him in many parts the voice has eventually become a drone and to have that voice dominate the film only detracts from enjoyment of the whole. Peter Greenaway on an interview on Radio 4 commented about the difference between films and music. Films are normally a once only experience whereas music is played repeatedly. Not for financial reasons he assures us he felt that films such as this should be seen a number of times in order to open up the boundaries of film-making.
I think extending the public's concept of what is acceptable as a film is a noble concept but the excessive use of nudity mainly repulsive people and the droniness of the Gielgud voice make this a difficult film to enjoy first time around. Alonso is allowed to speak 'Thy dukedom I resign' and we dovetail back into the Tempest proper i. The film improves a lot at this point as a conventional film it's like breaking into summer or Narnia when the snow of winter starts to melt by the approach of Aslan. We suddenly have a wealth of voices, now that the books have, possibly, been explored and the wall of sound, needed to balance the lone of Prospero, subsides and we see an imaginative production of 'The Tempest'.
I have the soundtrack of the film in my collection and I find that far more palatable than the film. It is certainly an ambitious, masterly produced, highly technical and it was valiant of Gielgud to take on the so very central role but I think I am unable to completely shed my doubts that perhaps it was somewhat pretentious, crutchy for instance the child peeing over the people in the pool at the start , film by a director who aspires beyond the zenith of Nicholas Roeg who progressed from doing 2 nd unit photography on Lawrence Of Arabia through being the cinematographer on Fahrenheit Trufffaut's only English film to the seminal Walkabout with Jenny Agutter [l] , Don't Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland and 'The Man Who Fell To Earth' [li] with David Bowie.
An uncredited net user, from a Shakespeare site containing reviews of Shakespeare related films including Forbidden Planet summarised the film: ' All of the weird images and multiple Prospero's bury the actual play, The Tempest. The story, if there is one, confused me and the nudity was awful. This artsy flick serves no purpose in helping the viewer to understand The Tempest, but rather serves as a visual extravaganza. My favourite part about it was that it was on video and I was able to fast forward.
The visuals bring the text to life, and the many songs from the play stream eerily from the mouths of various and delightful spirits and goddesses. I think to appreciate this film you have to embrace Greenaway's desire for multiple viewings being de rigueur ; to try to see the film as a minute pop video to be watched many times. With this in mind the necessity of Nyman's soundtrack, the visual feast to those who find the nudity so and Gielgud playing the lead role become clear. Since having such a highly regarded actor often thought second after Olivier of English speaking actors of the 20 th Century must make the film far more palatable and less easy to dismiss as pretentious soft porn.
It is interesting how we have The Tempest put into the Folio at the start on 19 pages reserved for it after the Preface. A somewhat incestuous concept perhaps but appropriate for a film like this to at least try to be recursive.
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Not the British director's best film but certainly his most: two chockablock hours of Sir John Gielgud intoning The Tempest while surrounded by naked babes and boys. It's as if God lived in the Playboy Mansion. The true version of this coffee-table film is the accompanying book: script, photos and drawings. The Animated Tales Adapted by Leon Garfield.
This is a delightful rendition of the play.
However, it suffers more than most of the plays in being so severely cut in order to condense it into a 25 minute slot. It takes quite a few screen minutes to set it up and we have only a moment of middle before it's being resolved. Rather like the twelve minute film but even more charming. At least we have an interesting scene at the end with a joyous Caliban running about the Isle and a rather poignant image of the returning Prospero.
This was something of a treat in a production intended for the very young. The following is a, necessarily incomplete [liii] , list of 'Tempest' inspired art;. It is principally from Harry Rusche's excellent [liv] 'Shakespeare Illustrated ' site but is augmented from various art books in my own collection.
- The Tempest casts strange spells at the cinema.
- Plot Topics.
- The Tempest: Masque.
In some cases I have corrected the titles. List of Images A J indicates that the image is available and is reproduced in the addendum. Come Unto These Yellow Sands Prospero, Miranda and Caliban [lv]. Ariel c. Miranda Scene from the Tempest c Ferdinand and Ariel Miss Priscilla Horton as Ariel Ferdinand Lured by Ariel.
Pen drawing. Ferdinand Lured by Ariel c. Ferdinand Lured by Ariel [lxi]. Ariel Caliban no date. The Tempest. Caliban Prospero and Miranda undated. Scene from "The Tempest " The Tempest c. Ariel and Caliban Ariel: " Where the bee sucks " Ariel: " On the bat's back I do fly ". Prospero and Miranda Miranda and Caliban.
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Miranda [lxii]. Miranda - The Tempest Ferdinand and Miranda in Prospero's Cell c. A quick tour of these Tempest related Images. These images will be considered for their aesthetic appeal, their choice of character s from the play, whether the painting depicts a real, imagined or described scene in the play. A major choice that the artist must make is whether to illustrate a moment in a character's journey or a thematic image [lxiii].
It is perhaps worth noting that with one of the most popular of Shakespeare and Pre-Raphaelite paintings Ophelia, the artist John Everett Millais chose not to show a scene that happens in the play. Instead he chose Gertrude's reported drowning of Ophelia. Taking this approach opens up the artist's possibilities allowing them to visualise something that is not created on stage for them.
So we might see something that is reported; alternatively they may imagine a thematic image combining several of the play's concepts. Dadd, Richard. A Strange merging of the fairy-like and humans in a dark, slightly oppressive rendering of the scene where Ariel singing the painting's title entices Ferdinand and colleagues ashore. F useli, Henry.
Prospero, Miranda and Caliban [lxiv]. A positively demonic Caliban being repelled by the forces of good. An Old Testament Prospero with a pointing figure [lxv]. This seems a simplification of Shakespeare's concept, but as always the painting is a product of it's own time.
Assorted fairy creatures seem more evocative of A Midsummer Night's Dream.