BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Midsummer Night's Dream

This adaptation of William Shakespeare's play stars Kevin Kline as Bottom the weaver, Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania, Rupert Everett as Oberon an Calista Flockhart has Helena.

The movie really features three separate story lines. There is the story involving Kevin Kline. He's part of a group of craftsmen rehearsing a play to perform for the grand duke's marriage celebration. There's the story of the fairies and an argument between Oberon and Titania over a young boy from India. And the third and final story is four young lovers, Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius. Demetrius is engaged to Hermia, but Hermia and Lysander are in love. They decide to run off together to prevent her marriage to the wrong man, but they confide in Helena. Helena is still in love with Demetrius, and hoping this will win his favor, she tells him of their plan.

Oberon enlists Puck to retrieve a flower that has an essence that, when rubbed on a person's eyes, makes them fall in love with the next person they see. He plans to use it on Titania to get his way about the boy. When he sees the poor way Demetrius treats Helena, he tells Puck to put some on the young Athenian's eyes. Puck, of course, mistakes the man and puts it on Lysander's eyes instead. He sees Helena when he first awakes and falls madly in love with her. Demetrius also gets a dose and likewise is in love with Helena. Both men chase her, spurning Hermia, who becomes angry. Helena thinks the men are mocking her.

Meanwhile, the group of craftsmen are rehearsing their play close to where the fairy queen sleeps and Puck gives Bottom the head of an ass--complete with big ears. Bottom wakes Titania who has also had the essence put on her eyes. She becomes enamored of him and dotes on this mortal who looks like a donkey.

I adore Shakespeare. I took a class when I was in college, and since then, I've read (or reread) his plays for fun. The man really was brilliant. I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream on stage when I was a freshman at the U of MN Morris and A&E has shown a taped version of the stage play on their channel a few times. I mention this so you know that I have some familiarity with this play and that it's one I like.

Overall, this version of the story wasn't bad, but unless I'm remembering everything horribly wrong, the film did my least favorite thing--they moved the play's setting to another time and place than Shakespeare intended. The Guthrie Theater does this all the time and I can't tell you how much I loathe it. For an example, I was watching Tartuffe by Moliere and enjoying the hell out of it--until the end when the actors (who up until that point had been in period costume) came out in 1930 gangster outfits complete with tommy guns and a car. This was a definite "Say what?" moment.

My memory of A Midsummer Night's Dream is that it takes place in Athens and before the 1800s. The names in the play--Lysander, Hermia, Theseus, etc., as well as some of the references to Athens--lead me to believe my memory is correct. Unfortunately, that means this movie was moved to Italy in the 1800s and that leaves me a very unhappy viewer.

That said, Kevin Kline did a brilliant job as Bottom. Of course, I do love Kevin Kline, so again, I'm biased. I thought Michelle Pfeiffer also did well as did Rupert Everett. I didn't quite get why Oberon wanted the Indian boy and why Titania didn't want to give him up nor did I understand why she wasn't angry later when Oberon did get the Indian boy. It seems to me she would have tried to get the kid back since she'd promised his mother to watch over him, but she just kind of shrugged and all was well between her and Oberon again. I can't blame the movie for this, though.

All the actors and actresses did a credible job with the dialog IMO. Sometimes modern actors doing Shakespeare come across as stilted, like actors reciting Shakespeare rather than being their characters, but there wasn't one person in this movie that didn't do well.

The scenes/setting of the film were beautifully done and added to the authenticity of the time and place. No matter how briefly the setting appeared in the movie, it appeared as if all pains were taken to ensure it was well accomplished.

What didn't I like? The time and place used--as I mentioned above. I also didn't like the constant use of bicycles in the film. Even Puck, instead of using magic, rides a bike at various times. My other problem was that this is supposed to be a comedy, but there was very little that was staged to be funny until the end when Bottom and his group of craftsmen do their play.

If you enjoy Shakespeare, this might be worth watching, otherwise I'd rent Much Ado About Nothing.

My rating 3.5 stars.