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A Midsummer Night's Dream [VHS] 
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Michael Hoffman directs an all-star cast in this version of one of Shakespeare's most popular works, set in Italy in the 1890's. Duke Theseus (David Strathairn) is unhappy because his daughter Helena (Calista Flockhart), passionately in love with Lysander (Dominic West), refuses to marry her suitor Demetrius (Christian Bale). Helena's friend Hermia (Anna Friel) does love Demetrius, but her affection is unrequited. The quartet escape into the woods, with Helena and Lysander determined to elope. Meanwhile, the fairy king and queen Oberon (Rupert Everett) and Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer) are quarrelling, and their dispute entangles a group of amateur actors rehearsing their play.
By far the best thing about director Michael Hoffman's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the extraordinary all-star cast, which follows the precedent created by Kenneth Branagh's Italian-set romantic Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing (1993), of mixing major Hollywood stars, here Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer, with top British talent, in this instance Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, Roger Rees, David Strathairn and Dominic West. Kline makes a fine Nick Bottom, with Pfeiffer equally good as the fairy queen Titania and Everett brooding effectively as Oberon. Unfortunately, while both look ravishing, it is hard to tell which actress between Anna Friel (Brookside) and Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) gives the most wretched performance. Both are completely out of their depth the moment they begin to speak, and utterly outclassed by the excellent Sophie Marceau. Shot in Tuscany and set in the 19th century, parts of the film are extraordinarily beautiful, while other sections could have benefited from some judicious special effects magic. This is not a bad movie, but it is rather uninspired, lacking any real imaginative grasp of the play. In contrast, the much less well known and lower budget Royal Shakespeare Company version of 1996 positively revels in the fantastically surreal possibilities this timeless text. --Gary S. Dalkin
Top Customer Reviews
Film has become violent and quite blatant in its exploitation of sex. This film is undoubtedly sensual - like the classical music that backs the film is sensual, but it it also fun and the special effects add to this sense of sheer delight.
Give this film a chance - let yourself go - watch Shakespere for once - this is how Shakespeare should be - not dried out in the school classroom - but full of wonderful life - and not a little spice!
I saw the BBC "Shakespeare retold" version awhile back and that wasn't nearly as good - indeed was sometimes quite boring and the play within a play was turned into two or three very poor modern-style variety acts. So I think it proves this isn't the easiest play to update to the present, although the Beeb's version did have the edge with Titania and Oberon who I think were even better conceived than in this version, but that doesn't detract from this Titania and Oberon as they are excellent. This version highly recommended and very more-ish.
Five stars. The only negative is that it is set in the Victorian era, which can confuse students, but all the pretty fairies - and the slight hint of seeing Michelle Pffiefers naked bottom - soon makes up for it!
Particular accolades to Kevin Kline. Brilliant performance. Worth having really just for him!
Not so keen on the lovers riding bicycles through the forest, and Kevin Klein overplays "Bottom". he is not funny enough. The part needs a lighter touch.
One of the moments that stays in my mind is during the final performance of Pyramus and Thisbe, when Flute suddenly begins to play the part convincingly, and the audience, having been laughing and commenting, fall silent and are moved.
Well worth the few pence this DVD costs, especially as I use it for teaching the play and Film Studies.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Used it as part of my Literacy lessons. The class thoroughly enjoyed it. If they now at least appreciate Shakespeare then my work is done...Published 1 month ago by Miss N K Brown
This is much nicer, and far cheaper, than the oil I had been using. The flavour is subtle which means not everything you cook with it tastes of coconut! Read morePublished 2 months ago by Dog Meister
Wanted it as it never comes up on TV and had seen it before. FAr better than the real reviewers think!Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer