A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)

Article 4550 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-1-2014
Directed by Peter Hall
Featuring Derek Godfrey, Barbara Jefford, Nicholas Selby
Country: UK
What it is: Shakespeare

Two pairs of lovers fall into the hands of mischievous sprites on a midsummer’s night.

This is perhaps the Shakespeare play with the greatest amount of fantastic content; only “The Tempest” really gives it a run for its money. As far as this version goes, I have no problems with the script (and even if I had, it isn’t like I could bring in the original author for a rewrite). Nor do I have any problems with the cast; given that it features members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and given the number of name actors in the cast (David Warner, Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Ian Holm, just to name the most familiar), it’s on very solid ground from an acting standpoint. However, I am less taken with the direction. It isn’t that the production fails to try to keep it from coming across like a photographed stage play. It’s more that it overuses many of its various tricks; in particular, there are far too many close-ups, and its only real special effect (having people appear and disappear out of and into thin air) is overused. It also has a tendency to break up scenes that should be left whole, and it even has some changes of location within monologues, and the result is some jarring breaks in continuity. Even despite these attempts, the movie still comes across like a photographed stage play, and this may be partially due to the decision not to have a musical score on the soundtrack; I think that alone would have made it flow better and feel more cinematic. At any rate, despite the talent on display here, I’m more partial to the 1935 version.


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