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A magical, mystery dream it certainly is! Filled with nymphs and fairies in an enchanted kingdom, Director Michael Hoffman’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream can only be described as adventurous and intriguing. One of Shakespeare’s more well-known plays, this story introduces you to a mythical world full of romance and enchanting characters in a way I think Shakespeare himself would have been amused! From young to old, the plot can be as simple or as difficult as you make it. Might I suggest you view it through the eyes of a child and you will not only be introduced to a new way of thinking, but have a greater understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare’s play.

Had it not been for the brilliant performances and casting of the characters, I might have still been stuck in the dream trying to figure out who was whom and what part they played in the telling of the story. It is always nice to put a face to a name and I found this extremely helpful while continuing to watch the various plots and subplots unfold.

Midsummer's Night Dream, A

Set in 19th century Monte Athena, preparations are being made for the wedding of Duke Theseus, played by David Strathairn. Hippolyta (played by Sophie Marceau) the Duke’s bride-to-be, has reservations about the pending marriage. The Duke is called upon by Bernard Hill as Egeus to resolve a dispute over an arranged marriage of his daughter Hermia (Anna Friel), to Demetrius (Christian Bale). Demetrius in turn is in love with Hermia’s best friend Helena, who is marvelously played by Calista Flockhart. Hermia is most upset when the Duke determines she must either honour her father’s arranged marriage to Demetrius or spend the rest of her days childless and in the nunnery! What a choice! Helena and Lysander decide to flee into the forest and profess their undying love for one another. Helena, who loves Demetrius, warns him of their plot to flee and so Demetrius goes after Helena and Lysander. An odd thing to do if he truly loves Helena. Helena then peddles in pursuit of Demetrius! The audience is confronted with issues of commitment, betrayal, and is the chase of the one you love better than actually having that person’s love?

While in the forest we are introduced to some quite interesting, colourful characters. Michelle Pfeiffer as the Fairy Queen is an exceptionally well cast part. The Fairy Queen enjoys being pampered and preened by the forest nymphs. Rupert Everett as Oberon becomes jealous when the Fairy Queen takes a very unlikely lover. Stanley Tucci plays a wonderful Robin “Puck” Goodfellow. I think this part was made for Stanley Tucci! He does tend to do quite diverse roles and this certainly brings his part to life!

Michael Hoffman has created a rather unusual character called Bottom the Weaver played spectacularly by Kevin Kline. I kept scratching my head trying to remember where Shakespeare had written about a character called Bottom the Weaver! Michael Hoffman wonderfully created the character for this adaptation. Bottom the Weaver initially revels in his part as one of the villagers of Athena who is picked to perform in a play before the Duke on the day of his wedding. As a bit of a shady character, of course he will be paid a small pension for his performance. Kevin Kline makes you excited even if you are sometimes not sure why!
Without giving away the entire plot, Bottom the Weaver finds his way into the forest and becomes the lover of the Fairy Queen. A series of spells are cast, lovers seemingly change partners in the blink of an eye and one needs to have an attentive eye and interest to continue to follow the story until the end! The storyline in some parts may be confusing, as it jumps back and forth and presumes that the viewer knows what the story is going to be about.
Clarista Flockhart I believe deserves a special mention for her performance. If one can forget for a moment that she is not playing the role of Ally McBeal, one will appreciate her performance as that of an accomplished Shakespearean actor. Her emotions make you feel her words and passion. Her facial expressions suggest there are no need for words to even be said.

Midsummer's Night Dream, A

Also deserving of a special mention is the cinematography, the location settings, props, as well as the costume design. One sometimes does not take into account how many unique pieces of the puzzle constitute the making of the whole movie. Unless one specifically pays close attention to details, the works of so many people behind the scenes are almost virtually forgotten. However, as anyone who has been associated with the making of films, from the actors to the extra, from the designers to the producers, from the writers to the Director, each person plays their part in unison for an outcome. This film is wonderful in the fact it is charming, romantic, delightful, and mysterious, magical and the work of Shakespeare all at the same time!

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, I think the sound was overall extremely good. One only needed to close their eyes and listen to the sounds of raindrops while in the forest! It seemed so real that I had to open my eyes to make sure I was not out in the forest getting wet! English, French, German and Spanish are the choices of languages available with subtitles in English for the Hearing-Impaired, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.

The score by Simon Boswell is outstanding. The music to accompany the various scenes only added to the magic and excitement of what we were about to see. My only negative with the audio would be in the very beginning of the story, I sometimes found it difficult to understand part of the Shakespearean dialogue. It was sometimes quickly spoken and took my ears a few moments to adjust to the particular speech. It certainly was not enough to put me off from being interested in the story.

Midsummer's Night Dream, A

Presented in anamorphic 2.35.1, the story was magical and caught my eye from even before the first scene with the little Tinkerbell-like fairies flittering across the screen. Many might become aware of a very noticeable pause after almost an hour’s viewing. This is an RSDL disc and while the layer change triggers a slight pause, it does not distract from further viewing. The shadow detail and sharpness is maintained throughout, making this a very nice looking transfer.

The cinematography certainly has a WOW effect! One was made to feel like they were invited guests to the Duke’s wedding as well a native of Monte Athena. Michael Hoffman can be commented on his choice of locations to make one feel that old- world charm. The colouring was enchanting and the attention to details was fascinating!

Other than the obligatory scene selection, there are no extras to be seen. This is totally disappointing! I would have enjoyed listening to Michael Hoffman and seeing some behind the scenes footage. I am always intrigued when someone welcomes the viewer into his creative mind and processes. I like to view scenes that were perhaps cut and I am always interested in bloopers and outtakes, but we get nothing of the sort with this release. There’s no commentary track, interviews or even a theatrical trailer, unfortunately.

Midsummer's Night Dream, A

A magical fantasy from the opening scene indeed! The words,"The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth", jumped out at me because never was a truer word spoken! The music was a delight. Stanley Tucci’s performance of Robin “Puck” Goodfellow reminded us all to always view the world like a child seeing things for the first time --- with amazement, excitement and unending curiosity! Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?