LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Midsummer Night's Dream, A
When it comes to great stories, nobody beats Shakespeare. Every time someone adapts Shakespeare to film, I always run out and see it. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a wonderful film. I can only guess that it is a liberal adaptation of the original play, because I have never seen this play performed on the stage.
Why is it obvious that liberties have been taken? The film is set in the early 19th century. The author died at the age of 52 in 1616, a good 200 years previous. I'm not sure how Shakespeare purists take this. From my point of view, it helps present his work in a more familiar light to a later audience. Recent productions of Richard III and Romeo and Juliet use this same technique. After all, the audience is being asked to do the work of translating English that is 400 years old. Filmmakers who are modernizing the sets and costumes are simply meeting the audience halfway.
The best thing about the film is the story and dialogue are Shakespeare's. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a great study in story structure. Act One: introduce everyone and tell the audience what makes them tick. Act Two: stir up trouble, bring the hero to his low point. Act Three: resolve the problems and wrap up the loose ends. Shakespeare was big with structure.
Now, 400 years later, the audience uses Act One to get used to translating the dialogue. It's good that very little happens in the beginning. Contrast this to modern screenwriting techniques that dictate that you must suck in the audience in the first reel of the film.
Most modern films are unstructured, and have no second act to speak of. This is a pity, because Act Two is almost always the most interesting part. But you have to have built really good characters first.
If you believe there are only comedies and tragedies, this is a comedy about love. Some people are in love with people in love with them. Some people are in love with people who do not share that love. And some people are just annoyed by the people who are in love with them. There are mistaken identities, love potions and mischievous deeds being done by lesser gods. This is a much lighter bill of fare than Richard III or Henry V. It is much more of a fantasy than Much Ado About Nothing.
If there is anything the modern film watcher may have trouble with in A Midsummer Night's Dream it is the end of Act Three. The major conflict is over and resolved. However, there are supporting characters whose plot lines have not been wrapped up. Shakespeare spends the time to complete everything in the story. This makes the film seem a reel too long at the end. This is where the audience needs to understand that this play was not written for the medium in which it is being presented nor the audience it being presented to. By today's fast-paced standards, all of Shakespeare's work is slow and sometimes tedious. But in the 17th century, when life was much slower, it was as fast as a story could go.
All in all, if you're like me and have been disappointed with the lack of story in Episode I of Star Wars, and most other movies in the past 18 months, go see A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is what storytelling is all about.
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Released in 1999
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewed by Mongo