Having played the part of the Shakespeare's caring magician or cruel tyrant, depending on how you view Prospero, in four stage productions in his career, John Gielgud's self-professed life ambition was to create a film adaptation of what we believe is the final play Shakespeare authored by himself. And that is exactly what 'Prospero's Books' is.
Released in 1991, it is an experimental take on Shakespeare's 1611 play, with many modern cinematic techniques and elements included, such as digital image manipulation and animation. It features sequences of dance and mime and extensive nudity, a reference to paintings of the Renaissance period, a period that proved fertile ground for the Elizabethan/Jacobean playwright himself.
Directed by the feted British director Peter Greenaway and with its score arranged by Michael Nyman, 'Prospero's Books' is a one-off in the history of Shakespearean, and indeed British, cinema. All productions, whether cinematic or theatrical, are essentially interpretations of the original script and 'Prospero's Books' is one that continues to be debated more than 25 years after it premiered.