Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Prospero's Books

I have yet to see Prospero's Books , the 1991 movie version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but did check out the book about the movie. The famous "We are such stuff as dreams are made on" scene is well-described. Here it is:

(Pages 145-6 from Prospero's Books by Peter Greenaway.)

Section 83.4
A montage. The masque and its company begin to dissolve.
(1) Characters in the masque -- freeze and turn into whitened versions of themselves... a white dust falls on them.
(2) An acrobatic quartet of garlanded dancers freeze and dissolve.
(3) Three characters in a group crumple and fall to the ground like old clothes.
(4) Close-up of the faces of four dancers who fade into hair and paper masks.
(5) Silk banners are ripped off a podium, scattering flower-heads.
(6) Four characters dancing off to the left freeze in a statuesque pose and fade away.
(7) An archway decorated with flowers and ribbons -- in slow motion -- begins to topple... fruit scattering.
(8) Book pages whirl away in a sudden gust of wind.
(9) Close-up of a bunch of flowered garlands withering to greyness.
(10) Costumes are thrown into a hamper.
(11) An orange-bush is shaken and all the oranges fall off.
(12) Fingers pinch out decorated candles.
(13) Five fauns hurriedly roll up a large flag.
(14) Five spirits quickly untie masks and throw them in a trunk and slam the lid.
(15) Five dryads roll up a carpet.
(16) In slow-motion -- swathes of red ribbon fall to the floor.
(17) A party of eight dancers stripped to the skin.
(18) A section of flower-strewn grass turns white in a gust of wind.
(19) Six masque-players drag a painted canvas across the grass -- with two young fauns sitting on the canvas.
(20) A de la Tour-lit girl blows out a candle.
(21) An orange bush in a tub is wheeled away in a barrow.
(22) A length of carpet on the grass in scattered with charcoal.
(23) A pan of salt is thrown on a brazier -- its flames turn yellow and go out.
(24) A young faun blows out a cande.
(25) Water is thrown on a brazier -- it spits steam and blackens.
(26) A black rain falls -- staining white sheets carried by children.
(27) Grey smoke blows across a party of dancers carrying away props.
(28) A very young child blows out a candle.
The activity continues as Prospero describes the collapse of the play.

83.5 Wide shot. The curtains are drawn… each painted curtain shows an image we have seen before… the bath-house, the library, the beach, the forest…

… And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

The final curtain is pulled across -- the play has ended, the stage is bare… the rain falls, the wind blows.
Prospero, with his back to the curtains and stage, speaks to the lovers and, over their heads, to us, the audience.

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.

83.6 Prospero in close-up -- he closes his eyes.

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