By Kevin Foster
I could say A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an awful movie, a sad shadow of the original Shakespearean masterpiece, a presentation comparable only to the lowest of the low budget Þlms. But if I did, I would be an utter liar, as childish as the character Puck. This version of the William Shakespeare’s classic is delightfully presented, painting a simplistic, carefree view of the oddities of love and life.
I was totally unsure of what to expect as I took my seat in the theatre and relaxed. My Shakespeare education is severely limited. I have only completed three short studies of Shakespearean tragedies in high school, recently seen Leo frolic around the screen in Romeo and Juliet, and have experienced Shakespeare in Love. Although the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was totally unknown to me and I have problems understanding Shakespearean lingo, the Þlm began and I fell in love with it.
The Þlm starts in Tuscany, Italy at the turn of the century. This modernized setting was used instead of Shakespeare’s original setting of ancient Greece because director Michael Hoffman wanted a setting more identiÞable to today’s audience. The fun begins when we are introduced to Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena, four young adults who are having major difficulties in the affairs of love. Hermia (newcomer Anna Friel) and
Lysander (Dominic West) are in love each other. Meanwhile, Demetrius (Christian Bale) is also in love with Hermia who is rightfully his promised to him through a decree from his father. However, Demetrius also faces the problem of Helena (Calista Flockhart), a young beauty who adores him, but for whom he holds no feelings. Confused yet? Don’t be.
The roles are portrayed skillfully by the actors, and the real magic happens when the audience is introduced to the faerie-trickster Puck (Stanley Tucci) and the player Bottom (Kevin Kline). Tucci shines as he uses boyish gestures and glee to place spells on the four young lovers and attempts to work out matters between the King of the Faeries, Oberon (Rupert Everett) and his Queen Titania (Michelle PÞeffer). The audience roared when Tucci danced around the screen and discovered anachronistic turn-of-the-century marvels such as the bicycle. Kline successfully executes his wit and humour, as he unwittingly becomes a pawn in the affairs of the King and Queen of the Faeries. He makes the ultimate ass of himself. The audience ate it up.
Admittedly, I was a little concerned after the Þrst few minutes of the Þlm because I couldn’t understand much of what was being said. But I caught on quickly because, as the movie continued, the laughs grew louder. Much louder. Indeed, the theatre was in stitches come ending. Some of the acting is convincing, although a few roles leave a bit to be desired. Even the look of the Þlm is attractive at times exploding with colour, and at others showing grand visions of turn-of-the-century Italy. All in all, I was really amused and impressed come ending. See this movie; go home happy.