Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

3.5 7
Director: Peter Hall

Cast: Derek Godfrey, Barbara Jefford, Hugh Sullivan

     
 

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British director Peter Hall's 1968 filmization of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring the Royal Shakespeare Company, is faithful to the text and to the main plot, which involves the "bewitching" of several groups of mortals by a covey of mischievous invisible fairies. So why did critics complain? Hall's handling of Shakespeare's prose and iambic

Overview

British director Peter Hall's 1968 filmization of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring the Royal Shakespeare Company, is faithful to the text and to the main plot, which involves the "bewitching" of several groups of mortals by a covey of mischievous invisible fairies. So why did critics complain? Hall's handling of Shakespeare's prose and iambic pentameter didn't bother the purists as much as the director's visual choices. Hall was criticized for staging the film in a typically rainy British winter rather than the mid-Summer alluded to in the play's title. The director responded by pointing out that the fairies, led by Oberon and Titania, were deliberately toying with the expectations and sensibilities of the Mortals -- thus, it made sense to confuse the "human" characters by playing havoc with the weather. Other stylistic alterations included updating the story to the 19th century, and the near-nudity of Judi Dench as Titania. Most of the film is shot in close-up (most effectively during the soliloquies of Diana Rigg, as Helena), not so much to hide budgetary deficiencies as to play better on television. Also featuring Ian Holm (as Puck) Barbara Jefford, Helen Mirren, Michael Jayston, Paul Rogers, Ian Richardson and David Warner, this Midsummer Night's Dream premiered in the U.S. on the CBS TV network on Sunday evening, February 9, 1969.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
One of the finest screen versions of the immortal Shakespeare comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream does suffer slightly from the period in which it was filmed. The costuming is not such a problem -- the mixture of 1960s styles with 19th century attire actually works well, producing an effect that is both disconcerting and comforting, and seems appropriate for what is, after all, a fantasy. Peter Suschitzky's jumpy, handheld camera does become annoying in places, but overall it's quite effective and gives a sense of immediacy to the proceedings. More problematic is the editing, which is sometimes choppy to the point of incomprehension. Clearly, director Peter Hall was going for a Richard Lester feel, but the effort comes across as a little forced. Still, these flaws seem minor when compared with the faithfulness with which the text has been preserved and -- more importantly -- with the dream of a cast that Hall has gathered. Diana Rigg is a glorious Helena, Helen Mirren adds depth to the often-misunderstood Hermia, and David Warner is a charming Lysander. Paul Rogers is quite possibly the best Bottom captured on film, playing the truth of the comedy rather than playing for laughs, and he and the enticing Judi Dench make a wonderfully queer pair. Michael Jayston is a bit wan as Demetrius, but Ian Holm's Puck is a malevolent delight. Warner and Hall would work together two years later, in Perfect Friday.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/10/2005
UPC:
0759259140639
Original Release:
1968
Rating:
NR
Source:
Water Bearer Films
Time:
2:04:00
Sales rank:
24,834

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Derek Godfrey Theseus
Barbara Jefford Hippolyta
Hugh Sullivan Philostrate
Nicholas Selby Egeus
David Warner Lysander
Michael Jayston Demetrius
Diana Rigg Helena
Helen Mirren Hermia
Ian Richardson Oberon
Judi Dench Titania
Ian Holm Puck
Paul Rogers Bottom
Sebastian Shaw Quince
Bill Travers Snout
John Normington Flute
Clive Swift Snug
Donald Eccles Starveling
Martin Best Actor

Technical Credits
Peter Hall Director
Michael Birkett Producer
Jack Harris Editor
Martin Ransohoff Producer
Neville Smallwood Makeup
Peter Suschitzky Cinematographer
Guy Woolfenden Score Composer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits [2:15]
2. Act 1 - Scene 1: The Palace of Theseus [11:02]
3. Scene 2 - Quince's House [5:41]
4. Act 2 - Scene 1: A Wood Near Athens [13:13]
5. Scene 2 - Titania, Queen of Fairies [9:51]
6. Act 3 - Scene 1: Enter the Clowns [12:45]
7. Scene 2 - Oberon, King of Fairies [22:25]
8. Act 4 - Scene 1: Titania and Bottom [14:26]
9. Scene 2 - The Rabble [4:22]
10. Act 5 - Scene 1: The Play Within the Play [22:16]

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A Midsummer Night's Dream 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this film during a visit to UCSB. A class at the university spent the night at a lodge overlooking the Pacific on the campus. Students in the class acted out individual scenes throughout the night. Before that night, they had rehearsed and had watched this film. I was visiting a member of the class. The professor let me take part in the overnight. It was utterly magical. This film was part of that magic. It is lovely--despite a few misses here and there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The DVD was not the film that I remembered. The performances were strong, but the colours were washed out. There were too many close-up shots. Bottom's Dream disappointed me after the recent film work by Kevin Kline. I think a restored version of the film might work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only reason this film didn’t totally suck was because you can’t possible ruin one of the best scrips ever written. Starring: Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Anna Friel, Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Stanley Tucci. Director: Michael Hoffman Writer: Michael Hoffman This is one of those films best watched curled up on the couch with a pillow and blanket beside you "encase you fall asleep" and a dictionary for all the words that are over your head. It’s a film not to watch with your children because, despite its rating "PG", it contains sexual references, nudity, sex scenes and death threats. The plot is complicated as two lovers steal away in 19th centaury Italy. The setting is a valid point as here is another fault in the film. It is supposed to be set in Athens yet none of the characters have Greek ascents, especially not Kevin Kline "who plays Bottom". Also I would like to point out that the director chose to set the film in England when it was supposed to be in Athens. That was part of the beauty of the film. Ten minutes into the film your head is spinning. Who’s in love with who? Where is it set? Everything is going in one side of the brain and out the other. By the time the fairies and mechanics have entered the film you will probably be asleep, but don’t because the only good bit is yet to come. When Calista Flockhart "Hermia" enters the stage you are immediately amazed at her brilliant acting. She portrays the role of a desperate lover drowning in self pity, rejection and lust, perfectly. Her performance was the only reason my rating for the film is higher than one. The forest "where the fairies live" is plastic. Its one of the worst sets I have ever seen. The artificial leaves and ridicules fairies make you feel as if you’re in a theme park. All the colours are exaggerated and the fairies become dots which are embellished. I was expecting to see a tall, sleek Oberon dressed in fine silks and vines but they gave us fat boy in a toga. The casting is HORRIBLE, not one of the actors felt in place, other than. Calista Flockhart. Anna Friel was so bad I had to close my eyes and go "lalalala" until her scenes were over. Cute lady yes, but Shakespearean actress she is not. The film is not as enchanting as it is supposed to be or even as it needs to be. Many of the intended magical elements turn dry. Having Puck ride a bicycle again and again is just not all that funny. Having him ride a silly-looking plastic turtle intended to be real is even less so. Hoffman even has a mud-wrestling scene with Helena and Hermia. Over all the film just didn’t appeal to me. Yes it took me to another world, but I’m not sure that’s a world I would like to return to. In some ways the movie is entertaining as the lines are kept to the original Shakespearian script however the movie adds nothing to it. I rate this film 1.5 stars.
SP3481MWJD More than 1 year ago
Well acted by everyone. The Queen of Faries is played by Judi Dench. It is well done. The whole cast is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a bad movie HELLO?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Notwithstanding Henry the Fifth, this is still my favorite play by Shakespeare, and this production, using the Royal Shakespearean Acting Co. is still the best. It's killing me that this is not available on DVD. I remember when I first saw this, how startled I was to see Diana Rigg (from ''The Avengers'') in this film, and that she was a member of the Company - not because she wasn't a fantastic actor, but because this was Such a different role for her.