Shot on location at the ancient and ghostly stoneleigh abbey the tempest tells the story of prospero the magician who lives with his nubile daughter on an enchanted island and punishes his enemies when they are shipwrecked... more » there. Its a study of sexual and political power in the guise of a fairy tale. Studio: Kino International Release Date: 02/22/2000 Run time: 95 minutes Rating: Nr Director: Derek Jarman« less
"This low budget movie retains Shakespeare's language and some startling as well as disturbing interpretations of his play. Prospero's cave is a gothic mansion. Ariel is a deadpan, rather grim butler ala Joel Grey in Cabaret. Caliban resembles an escaped lunatic complete with maniacal laughter. Nevertheless all the characters despite their departure from more traditional depictions are well acted and worth watching. Miranda in particular has more brains and pluck in this production than the simpering waif she is often portrayed to be. The play drags on where Jarmon cut a lot of the poetry in favor of more scenes of the characters traipsing about the mansion. Such scenes become monotonous about halfway through the movie. Film is unrated but contains several scenes of full frontal nudity as well as a particularly disturbing vision of an adult Caliban suckling a nude, obese Sycorax. As a teacher of English, seleced scenes were worth showing to my ninth grade class but the film was too monotonous, and contained too much perversity to show in its entirety."
Irreverent, yet stunningly true to the SPIRITof the original
Rich Hicks | 07/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was dragged, kicking & screaming, to this film the first time I saw it. Staggeringly enough, I wound up being utterly captivated. While the film most closely resembles a fantasia on themes from Shakespeare's play, its spirit is so at one with the original I don't think anyone but the most literal-minded purist could possibly object. With appallingly limited means, but a virtually limitless visual imagination, Jarman creates a true world of wonder. There are moments of stunning beauty throughout -- Miranda's vision of herself as a child, Ferdinand dragging himself naked from the sea and staggering, half-drowned, along the shore -- and magnificent character choices -- Karl Johnson's still, sad-faced Ariel, Jack Birkett's egg-sucking, North Country Caliban, Heathcote Williams' youthful, vigorous, anarchic Prospero. All crowned, however, by an indescribably joyous "wedding masque" -- a loopy sailors dance followed by Elizabeth Welch sweeping in, all in gold, to sing (what else?)"Stormy Weather" as the entire cast practically melts in bliss. Only certain segments of Fellini's "The Clowns" have ever made me catch my breath the way I did repeatedly during this film. Made on a shoestring, this film is a triumph of wit & imagination. I tear up just thinking about it."
Imaginative but disappointing
Bert Munro Mccarthy | Reno, Nevada | 09/18/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I really wanted to like this production, and it definitely has its moments: the film is quite stylish and certainly provocative and uninhibited. Nevertheless, I am in something of a hurry to express my dismay on a number of fronts. A very important part of understanding and appreciating Shakespeare is to grasp his vision of the magical and mystical realms. The sprite-inhabited forest of "Midsummer Night's Dream" and the transformative enchantment of Arden forest in "As You Like It" are indicative of the Bard's far-reaching insight involving alternate perspectives and, yes, alternate realities. Here lies much of the abiding richness and charm of the plays, especially the comedies. I believe that Prospero and Ariel are intended to participate and represent the "Brave New World" of these realities. Thus, these characters necessarily will fall quite a bit short of expectation when they are portrayed as adynamic, dull, and manifestly unwise. The sad result is a production that lacks "spirit" and is incapable of achieving a desired goal of enchantment and upliftment. What we are left with instead is a "dance of the sailors" and a curious rendition of "Stormy Weather" -- far from satisfying, in contrast with other productions I have seen. As for the Caliban character, he needs to be presented as earthy and brutish, yes, but not, I think, maniacal. I was also puzzled about his being portrayed as being in his fifties (or sixties) when simple mathematics, not to mention tradition, would suggest a much younger creature."
A cozy dream for exiled dreamers
Robert Sercombe | Grand Prairie, TX USA | 08/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ken Russell's designer on The Devils and Savage Messiah, the late Derek Jarman, made one of my favorite movies out of Shakespeare's most fanciful, yet most forgiving, play. Jarman makes a virtue of his tiny budget, having learned much from his former director about how to stretch one: the shadows, fireplaces, dust and antique clutter of Stoneleigh Abbey make a cozy and believable home in exile for Prospero, for whom "my library was dukedom enough," and for his fond daughter Miranda, who dances and play-acts around the vast, shabby manor like any imaginative child who hasn't known anything else, nor any reason to be ashamed of it. The mood is intimate and vespertine (in the Bjork sense); and for once, clutter is not the symptom of a lowlife or a loser, but the habit of a wistful, brilliant man absorbed in his studies and contemplation. For this alone, I recommend the film to anyone who ever felt like an innocent exile, a misunderstood artist or dreamer.I also recommend it if you enjoy radical approaches to Shakespeare. Jarman's vision succeeds nearly everywhere, aided by superb casting. Hippie-hairy Heathcote Williams and the pleasantly zaftig Toyah Willcox are a warm and very appealing father and daughter, the ectomorphic Karl Johnson an Ariel with his own dreams to dream when not subduing resentment at his slavery to Prospero, and the bald, lisping, leering Jack Birkett nearly stealing the movie as an alarming, grotesque Caliban whose own wide-eyed pleasure in the "thousand twangling instruments" of the isle, with its "sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not" is as strangely winning as his hostility and vulgarity have been repulsive. Jarman's customary homoerotic elements work well and add another dimension to the play, as he contrasts Caliban's baseness not with Ariel's loftier sensibilities but with Miranda's moral innocence; while Miranda's *sexual* innocence is contrasted with Ariel's resignation to postponing his own desires, shown when he enchants and sings over the totally naked Ferdinand but otherwise leaves him alone. Stephano and Trinculo are flamboyantly queer, donning masks and costumed frippery not, like other characters, to symbolize dissembling in a straight society, but in drunken frolic as they plot to overthrow Caliban's master. (This is how Jarman delivers what an earlier reviewer here felt was missing, the "alternative realities.") Jarman's tone of melancholy lifting culminates in musical comedy star Elisabeth Welch's rendition of "Stormy Weather". It works.The play is heavily cut, but could have benefited from more cutting, as Caliban is not made to look in any way fishlike, but Stephano and Trinculo still talk as though he is; Prospero looks forward to going home, where "every third thought shall be my grave" even though the actor was only 38; and Miranda's exclamation "O brave new world, that has such people in it!" sounds ridiculous when referring to the underrehearsed chorus line of rather fey sailors doing a silly dance that goes on too long. Representing Prospero's servant spirits with dwarves works fine, except Jarman's technique is not skillful enough to convey the menace of their assault on Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian. Jarman's technique would fully mature in his film of Edward II.Although it was praised by English critics, The Tempest is an obscure little foreign art film, and has not been remastered in any way. The "extras" include the original presskit text, plus three short films that look like static landscape shots in Super8mm, and are of no interest except to Jarman scholars."
A Moody Gothic and Lusty Tempest
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 06/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very strong re-imagining of Shakespeare's Tempest. Like Ken Russell (with whom Jarman served as an apprentice on a number of films), Jarman has a natural interest in and affinity for English history & literature and an equal interest in and affinity for camp which is skeptical of and often parodies traditions that it nonethless adheres to and upholds. As much of an iconoclast as Ken Russell and Derek Jarman seem to be they never stray far from the acknowledged masterpieces of literature and the way these masterpieces orient us toward the world; what they add, however, is an element of camp (or play, or polymorphous perversion, or myriad-mindedness) which draws attention to the restrictions that class and gender and race place on individuals or social actors "playing" at any given time in history. But this is, of course, what the greatest literature has always done--shown the arbitrary bounds and laws by which men and women delimit their lives. In this way the greatest literature has always been iconoclastic and Russell and Jarman fit into English tradition as well as Shakespeare and Marlowe, Byron and Shelley, Lawrence and Woolf.
In Jarman's production there is little left of the once great Prospero but a desire to be avenged. In his mind the world wronged him and he will not be at peace with it until he sets it right again. The irony is that in seeking to set the world aright he enslaves others (Ariel and Caliban) and simply perpetuates the chain of wrongdoing that he is trying to break. The tragedy of the play is that Prospero knows that despite his efforts he really cannot make men act against their natures and that despite brief lapses of peace (occasioned by art) men will always resume their contest for power. But like many of Shakespeare's plays this is not wholly a tragedy nor wholly a comedy and so one moment we may be, along with Ariel, lamenting mans tragic fate and the next minute, along with Ariel, laughing at it. Most productions of The Tempest seem to favor either the tragic or comic element, but what Jarman does is not imbue the entire play with one mood but imbue individual characters with one or another, comic or tragic, mood. So while Prospero is imbued with a brooding & wistful melancholy that is wholly appropriate to his age and experience, his daughter Miranda is imbued with a sense of possibility and wonder that is wholly appropriate to her age and experience. The beauty of the play is that each character really inhabits their own version of the island, and lives within their own desires (or fears, for one could argue that what Caliban really fears is not having someone to serve for this would mean taking responsibility for his own reality). Of course some people might be put off by the fact that Jarman also allows each character to have their own sexuality. The campy ending, I might add, just underlines the unbridgable gulf that exists between art (where man experiences a measure of freedom and joy) and life (where man must live according to the decorums of the state.
Jarman's eccentric cast works very well at bringing to life Shakespeare's characters and themes and enlivening them with Jarman's visual style. If Ken Russell was the perfect artist of the early 1970's in that he seemed to glorify in the fashionable excess of the age, then Jarman is perhaps the perfect late seventies/early eighties artist that seems to glorify in the excesses of character and sexuality while also realizing that those excesses/eccentricities are allowed only in the world of art and that society as a whole is not that permissive or playful. This would explain the paradoxical melancholy of Jarman's artist-angels-visionaries; they are transcendent creatures but they are, nonethless, always trapped in society and in time.
The DVD includes three silent bonus shorts from 1971, 1972, & 1973 respectively. They are art student pieces that reveal the visionary yearnings of this essentially romantic and thus eternally melancholy artist."