The Tempest

Julie Taymor, 2010.

In The Tempest, Julie Taymor creates another visual feast from Shakespeare’s rich text. Eschewing ‘traditional’ modes of producing cinematic Shakespeares, she filmed the majority of her film on the islands of Hawai’i – the black rock, deep orange gorges, lush tidal forests, rocky shores, cliffs and colours the perfect complement for her vision of sorcery, magic, redemption and love. Prospera’s island, as in the play, becomes a reflection of isolation, creating a new hierarchical order in a ‘new world’, and becomes a kind of antithetical evocation of Donne’s famous observation that ‘no man is an island’. Helen Mirren’s Prospera is a force of nature to be reckoned with, and while the decision to make Shakespeare’s magician a woman was always going to be controversial for many people, I actually prefer it to Shakespeare’s original, simply because there is so much more at stake, between Prospera and Miranda, between both of them and Ferdinand, between Caliban, towards the court and the usurping Duke. While her visuals are excellent and her cast, crew and rough magic all superb, it doesn’t quite reach the insane heights of Titus’ carnivalesque, though it is hard to distinguish exactly how or why.