The film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one that gains three out of five stars in my book. With the director Michael Hoffman taking the fun and magical world of fairies from Shakespeare’s comedy and turning it into a rather serious tale, the movie, released on May 14, 1999 was given a new twist on its own.
The story is about a complicated love affair where Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia but she only has eyes for Lysander. This is made worse with Hermia’s father wanting Demetrius to be his son-in-law. Helena, Hermia’s friend, on the other hand wants Demetrius.
Hermia and Lysander plan to flee from the city under the cover of darkness but are pursued by an enraged Demetrius who is himself pursued by an enraptured Helena. In the forest, the king and queen of the faeries, Oberon and Titania, are having a lover’s quarrel over a servant boy.
Oberon’s mischief-maker, Puck, runs loose with a flower which causes people to fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking. In the twists that created unexpected pairings, the lovers are finally brought together rightly, thanks in part to the bungling work of Puck.
The performance of Kevin Kline, who played Nick Bottom, has brought an element of compassion from the audience even in the light of the character’s buffoonery. Kline gives the comic relief character more life with his proclivity to exaggeration. Rupert Everett (Oberon) was radiant as the king, but gave no standout performance and looked a little deadpan in his acting. His partner, Michelle Pfieffer (Titania) looked so indifferent in her performance but still gets the beauty vote among the members of the cast.
Stanley Tucci (Puck) has played the playful role of Puck well, seeming to enjoy the movie he’s playing in and stays comical all the way. Calista Flockhart, playing Helen, was a convincing lovesick ragdoll who clarified how pathetic the character really was.
She was able to handle a very classic role with an enthusiastic energy only rivaled by her co-actor, Tucci. Hermia, played by Anna Friel, was average in her performance, and her mud-based fight scene with Helena was probably the most convincing part of her acting. Dominic West did not give any standout performances and was average all throughout the entire movie. Demetius, played by Christian Bale, had done his duty as an actor playing his part and did not rise above his role and made the character larger than life.
The whole movie is devoid of any hi-tech special effects that we are constantly bombarded with in today’s movie industry. Some of the evidence of this is Bottom’s donkey ears and a great amount of facial hair; the wings of the faeries seem like strap-on contraptions that are so stiff and unrealistic.
The forest setting, however, served its purpose, which is to have a magical, unearthly quality even though it looked more like a set than a real forest. Make-up and costume design were effective in creating the strange creatures found in the story, despite the lack of technology.
Most of the costumes for the humans, however, seem ready to be ripped off from their bodies as were suggested in some of the scenes making the movie very sexually suggestive.