Despite being radically unconventional, late auteur Derek Jarman's 1979 film has been hailed as one of the most successful adaptations of the Bard's works by several Shakespeare scholars. Jarman removes much of the dialogue, instead carrying the story with his trademark haunting images, lit mostly by fire and the moon. Using the prevalent English punk sensibility of the time, he also employs undertones of closeted gay society. Poet Heathcote Williams plays the banished Prospero with a frustrated intensity, while Karl Johnson is the spritelike Ariel. Together on a remote island, they become prisoners of a dark fantasy realm filled with secret signs and codes, where they attempt to use magic to turn the world into a more spiritually satisfying place. Meanwhile, Prospero's daughter, Miranda (Toyah Willcox), wanders the halls of his foreboding fortress, outrageously costumed in a stunning combination of period and punk tatters as she draws strangers into her home while longing for freedom. Shot on location at Stoneleigh Abbey, Jarman's film creates a dreamlike world within each room that is lushly lit and decadent in its wasteful decay. As the tale progresses, Prospero's illusions become false realities, culminating in a sumptous wedding feast that features a Busby Berkeley-like performance of sailors dancing as Elisabeth Welch sings "Stormy Weather."
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