The Tempest Des McAnuff

The Tempest Des McAnuff
The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's weirder tales, incorporating a heavy supernatural element, veering back and forth from serious to funny several times. While technically a comedy, the play has a strange darkness to it, particularly early on, as we are introduced to Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, who refers to his use of magic to manipulate a storm to throw his island of exile into chaos. On several occasions, Prospero talks to a magical forest sprite (or something) that only he can see, while two characters also get blind drunk with a frogman. There's a definite lysergic quality to the whole thing; it's as though everyone has been transmutated into goofy madness by the freak storm. Funny, then, that something so inherently cinematic has never been truly successfully adapted. Noted iconoclast Derek Jarman attempted a low-budget version in 1979 and just last year, Julie Taymor, queen of ostentation, directed Helen Mirren in a reverse-gender version that was poorly received and sunk without a trace. Peter Greenaway's highly unconventional version from 1991, Prospero's Books, is a great, big, beautiful, incomprehensible mess. This new version is a straightforward film adaptation of the 2010 Stratford Festival production — a literal filmed play, as it were — which works in and of itself, but also shows its limitations, including a certain acclimation to the inherently stagy nature of the work. The material is strong enough to transcend the visual austerity, and Christopher Plummer, in the role everyone has seemingly been clamouring for him to play since he first opened his mouth on stage, is captivating. However, the DVD exists largely to commemorate his work and, like most concert DVDs, it's a treasure for fans, but doesn't stand on its own as a piece of cinema. (eOne)