A Theory of Intermediality and its Application in Peter Greenaway's <Prospero's Books>
The cinema of Peter Greenaway has consistently engaged questions of the relationship between the arts and particularly the relations of image and writing to cinema. When different types of images are correlated and merged with each other on the borders of painting, photography, film, video and computer animation, the interrelationships of the distinct elements cause a shift in the notion of the whole image. This analysis proposes to articulate the complex relationship between the ‘interartial’ dimension and the ‘intermedial’ dimension in Peter Greenaway's film, <Prospero's Books> (1991). If the interartiality is interested in the interaction between various arts, including the transition from one to another, the intermediality articulates the same type of relationship between two or more media. The interactional relationship is the same on both sides; on the contrary, the relationship between art and media does not show the same symmetry. All art is based on one or more media - the media is a condition existence of art - but no art can't be reduced to the status of media. This suggests that if the interartiality always involves the intermediality, this proposal may not be reversed.
First, we analyse a self-conscious investigation into digital art and technology. Prosospero's Books can be read as a daring visual essay that self-consciously investigates the technical and philosophical functions of letters, books, images, animated paintings, digital arts, and the other magical illusions, which have been modern or will be post-modern media to represent the world. Greenaway uses both conventional film techniques and the resources of high-definition television to layer image upon image, superimposing a second or third frame within his frame. Greenaway uses the frame-within-frame as the cinematic equivalent of Shakespeare's paly-within-play : it offer him the possibility to analyse the work of art/artist/spectator relationship. Secondly, we analyse the relationship between the written word, oral word and the books. Like the written word, the oral word changes into a visual image: The linguistic richness and nuances of Shakeaspeare's characters turn into the powerful and authoritative, but monotone, voices of Gielgud-Prospero, who speaks the Shakespearean lines aloud, shaping the characters so powerfully through his worlds that they are conjured before us. Specially each book is placed over the frame of the play's action, only partially covering the image, so that it gives virtually every frame at least two space-time orientations. Thirdly, we try to show how Peter Greenaway uses pictorial references in order to illustrate the context of the Renaissance as well as pictorial techniques and language in order to question the nature of artistic representation. For exemple, The storm is visualised through reference to Botticelli's <Birth of Venus>: the storm of papers swirling around the library is constructed to look like a facsimili copy of Michelangelo's Laurentiana Library in Florence. Greenaway’s modern mannerism consists in imposing his own aesthetic vision and his questioning of art beyond the play’s meta-theatricality: in other words, Shakespeare’'s text has been adapted without being betrayed.