BBC = Boisterous, Beautiful, Charming

March 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I knew that Romeo and Juliet was probably the low ebb of the BBC Television Shakespeare series, so I am happy to report that their version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is much better.

It is not fantastic, but it’s fun to watch and the acting is all decent. Helen Mirren is sensual and luminous as Titania. The “hempen homespuns” are bumbling, but funny. Helena (Cherith Mellor) is fun to watch as her character has to deal with the changes in her friends brought on by the fairy love juice.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this version at all. The film starts very slowly. The “Athenians” are in what appears to be an 18th century English home with a big clock ticking in the background. The four Athenian youngsters are lined up at a table as Hermia’s father tells her she must marry Demetrius and give up Lysander. Helena’s character seems so bumbling and prunish at first. I just wasn’t sure I was going to get into it.

But enter the fairy world and things started moving along nicely. The story, with all its convolutions, is very easy to follow in this version. It’s clear who is in love with who at which moment and why.

So, I liked it all in all. And it can’t help but be funny, because the play itself is so silly with the Athenians falling in and out of love and the fairies playing tricks.

HOWEVER. And it’s a big however. This version creates a dark mood, especially in the fairy kingdom. Puck is creepy and Oberon is mean-spirited. There’s a darkness hanging over the whole production that seems off to me. Again, I haven’t re-read the text yet, but my memories of this play are all lightness, magic, and comedy. That’s not the tone here. Still, I enjoyed watching this and I’m looking forward to seeing more film versions.

© All Content, Copyright 2010 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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8 Comments

  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    Michael Hoffman’s 1999 film version is my absolute favorite. Generally I think it is the definitive film version so far. All the characters are extremely well-cast, and both the acting and the surroundings are top of the line.

    Another version I like quite a bit is Adrian Noble’s 1996 film. It’s very minimalistic and theatrical, but I think it works well. Some people don’t like it, though.

    I wasn’t enormously impressed with the BBC version, but it’s okay. I should probably watch it again.

    The 1968 film version (starring, among others, a topless Judi Dench as Titania) was also a disappointment to me. The fairies are all terribly mischievous, nearly to the point of being malicious. I really don’t think that’s in the spirit of the play. The light-hearted approach adopted by Hoffman is much superior, in my view.

    I haven’t seen the old 1935 version yet.

    • Renee said,

      I love Michael Hoffman’s version also! That’s the one I used to show in my classroom when we studied MSND. I like that it was left as a stage performance and not turned into a modern film masterpiece. The fact that the cast consists of currently recognized, modern actors made a huge difference in the interest level of my students. Many of those actors are even more recognizable now than they were in 1999!

      C’mon….you KNOW today’s high school freshmen would be swooning over 25 year old Christian Bale as Demetrius!

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Thanks. I will look for these. I think I’m going to skip the 1935 version. I am now watching a 2005 BBC Shakespeare ReTold version I found on netflix. It’s totally modern. I’m enjoying it.

  2. Renee said,

    I like this 1982 one too

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084328/

    It’s what I used in my classroom before the Hoffman one came out. It’s campy; and though it has some rather large names in it, it gives you the feeling that you’re sitting on a hill at a summer Shakespeare Festival.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Renee, that’s the TV version with Christine Baranski, not the opera version in the image?

      • Renee said,

        Yes… TV version with Christine Baranski. Campy cheesy, but I like it anyway!

        How funny that they put the opera cover on the IMDB listing!! LOL!

  3. BBC = Boisterous, Beautiful, Charming, PART II « Or What You Will said,

    […] with my last post and then as I started writing about that BBC Television Shakespeare version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I realized the title was a bit more enthusiastic than I really felt. But now I mean it! The […]

  4. BBC = Gets the Job Done « Or What You Will said,

    […] Robert Lindsay (it’s funny, I see now that Lindsay also played Lysander in the BBC version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I didn’t recognize him at all). I really appreciate Benedick’s transformation in […]

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