There really is no need for me to mention it, but Shakespeare is
hotter than ever. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE won Best Picture, and more than
a few teen movies are using the Bard as inspiration. We knew it
wouldn't be long before we had another period piece Shakespeare
adaptation. The film is Michael Hoffman's rich, opulent adaptation of
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
This version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM moves the setting to Italy
towards the end of the 19th century. It is the story of one night when
all sorts of unexpected twists occur involving a few couples falling
in and out of love.
Demetrius(Christian Bale), is set to be wed to Hermia(Anna Friel), who
actually is in love with Lysander(Dominic West). Since Hermia doesn't
want to be forced into unwanted wedlock, she runs away into the forest
with Lysander. But that is not before they tell Helena(Calista
Flockhart), who is starved for Demetrius' affection, of their plans.
Helena then tells Demetrius of their flight, and he rushes into the
forest, followed by Helena. It is there that all four of them
encounter Puck(Stanley Tucci), a fairy who administers a love potion
that will make a person fall in love with the next person he
sees. Puck also works his magic on the fairy queen(Michelle Pfeiffer),
who falls in love with an actor(Kevin Kline) who is turned into a
donkey, while the fairy king(Rupert Everett) makes some observations
of his own.
Michael Hoffman(ONE FINE DAY, RESTORATION) works wonders with a superb
ensemble cast; the standouts being Pfeiffer, Kline, and Calista
Flockhart, who takes a step away from "Ally McBeal". The film is shot
wondrously on location by Oliver Stapleton(THE GRIFTERS, ONE FINE
DAY), who makes the play seem anything but stagy.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM is a fine film, but if there is a problem to
be mentioned, it is the film's length. At 115 minutes, the movie is
too long to just be taken as a light comedy, and there isn't much in
the way of drama to hold a viewer's attention. Although I am
unfamiliar with the play, there doesn't seem to be much original work
added to this production, despite the change in location. But all in
all, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM is a funny, lush tribute to the Bard's
greatness...and newfound popularity.
Copyright © 1999 Akiva Gottlieb