A Dreamy Dream

April 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

Michael Hoffman’s 1999 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is voluptuous and sexy and altogether dreamy. The setting is around 1900 in Italy and everyone is mad about bicycles. I wasn’t sure about all the zooming around on bikes, but it ended up working for me.

The fairy world is weird and wonderful, bizarre and beautiful. I love the fairies. They’re sparkly and spirited. Stanley Tucci’s Puck is great—I love his facial expressions and he’s puckish without being mean. Rupert Everett’s Oberon is handsome and suave and he manages to bring out the kingliness of this fairy king. Michelle Pfeiffer is luminescent. She’s gorgeous and dreamy and completely fairy-like. Fantastic!

The young lovers are fun to watch. Calista Flockhart is a convincing Helena. She’s a simpering spaniel doormat while conveying the intensity of her attachment to the unworthy Demetrius. I was very interested in Helena’s motivation after watching Picture This, where Helena is portrayed as selfish and making poor decisions and ultimately suffering because Demetrius’s love for her is not true love, but love sprung from fairy magic. I don’t agree with this assessment. I view Helena as misled by Demetrius, who loved her and then left her for no apparent reason. She is heartbroken and unable to just let go. It’s not her fault that the fairies intervene on her behalf. I saw Flockhart’s portrayal of Helena as true to the text. She’s in love and she’s willing to (mud)fight for what she wants.

I have a few quibbles with the film. I did not like Theseus (David Strathairn) and Hippolyta (Sophie Marceau). Strathairn’s Theseus is stiff and he seems to have difficulty delivering the lines. Marceau’s Hippolyta is not even slightly Amazonian and I found myself really annoyed when she brushed away a tear at the end of Pyramus and Thisby. Really? A tear?

I enjoyed Kevin Kline’s Bottom, although I think he is way too handsome for Bottom. Kline’s Bottom is not nearly the ass that I picture Bottom to be. And yet, he’s quite an ass. And so on that note, I will end. With that tedious, brief scene of that very tragical mirth. And yes, I was definitely Laughing Out Loud at the end.

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  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    Glad we agree!! 🙂 It’s true that Strathairn and Marceau are a bit grey, and a bit sleepy… Hippolyta is shown actually dosing off to the fantastically funny play at the end, and then, suddenly, she’s wiping away a tear…? Doesn’t quite compute. On the other hand, my respect for these actors is so great that I enjoy their presence all the same.

    Some critics have made much of the bicycles, but I don’t think they’re particularly important in any way. So, there are bicycles. So what? I hardly noticed them when I saw this film the first couple of times, and I think it’s silly to focus on them for whatever reason. They are there as comic relief, and serve that function entirely adequately.

    The three main boons of this production are indeed Tucci, Everett and Pfeiffer as the chief fairies. They are excellent in every way. The whole fairy world is a splendiferous fantasy realm unto itself, exactly as it should be. I treasure this DVD as the best Dream around. It will be hard to top.

  2. Tue Sorensen said,

    Oh, one more thing: being a guy, I don’t think of Kevin Kline as “too handsome” (also, I don’t have any particular mental image of what Bottom is supposed to be); I think of him as a comedy actor, and I find he fits this part very well. He is in fact much better here than as Jacques in Branagh’s 2006 As You Like It film, where he is too grey and dull in a marvelously colorful film.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      They sort of paint Kline as a lady’s man. He’s making eyes with that woman on the street when his nagging wife shows up and he hides. Then, we see that woman again later. Who is she? In my mind, Shakespeare’s Bottom is not a handsome lady’s man. He’s a silly ass, which makes Titania’s doting all the more hilarious. I like Kline as Pyramus. Very silly.

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

    […] text, and nothing odd (i.e., green fairies) or annoying (i.e. boring, beige people). There are no bicycles, no Keystone Kops, no surreal […]

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