Friday, December 27, 2013

Shakespeare The Animated Tales: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1992) DVD Review

Shakespeare The Animated Tales: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1992) stars Daniel Massey, Suzanne Bertish, Anthony Jackson, Kim Wall, Bernard Hill, and Peter Postlethwaite. The screenplay is by Leon Garfield, and it’s directed by Robert Saakiants. Like all of the animated tales, this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is heavily cut due to time constraints. The film is just under twenty-six minutes long.

Act I

The film begins with voice over delivering Lysander’s line, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” though it is a female voice. She then goes on to explain: “Hermia loved Lysander, and Lysander loved Hermia…At the same time, Helena loved Demetrius, but Demetrius did not love Helena. Instead, he loved Hermia.” The first line of actual dialogue is Lysander’s line, “So quick bright things come to confusion.” But the narration continues, as we see Hermia leaving Athens at night, and Helena telling Demetrius of her flight. As the Mechanicals march single file into the woods, the narrator identifies each. Their first line is Quince’s “Is all our company here?” from Act I Scene ii. We then get Bottom asking to play Thisby and the Lion.

Act II

Oberon rises from the greenery as he’s introduced. Puck is presented as a short man dressed in pinks and purples, an odd choice. Oberon delivers his “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania,” with all of the dialogue between Puck and Fairy cut. Titania’s fairies all have animal features, which lends a different sort of tone to Titania’s later love for the translated Bottom. After all, she seems to already have an affinity for those with the looks of animals. We see the changeling boy when he’s mentioned. While the narrator explains the potency of the flower, we see its effects on the eyes of one insect, who falls madly in love with another type of bug. Oberon fades into leaves as Demetrius enters saying “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.” Oberon begins his “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows” speech before Puck returns.

Titania’s fairies sing her to sleep, and the changeling boy goes to sleep as well. Oberon says only the first two lines of his speech to sleeping Titania before delivering the last line. Delivering the last line without the preceding lines breaks up the rhyme.


Act III begins with Bottom’s line, “Are we all met?” but then goes to Flute’s “Let me not play a woman” (from Act I Scene ii, and switching the words from “let not me play a woman”). As it’s animated, we see Bottom’s transformation. When Bottom begins to sing, Puck actually pushes him toward sleeping Titania, so that she will wake and see him. That’s actually a really interesting choice.

Puck’s famous line “Lord, what fools these mortals be” is cut from its speech (which is odd, particularly considering the line preceding it is left intact). When Hermia arrives, she goes right into her angry speech to Helena: “You juggler! you canker-blossom!” That doesn’t really make sense, as it skips the part where she’s at first happy to see Lysander, not yet aware of the troubles. While the girls trade insults, we then get Puck’s line “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

Act IV

Act IV Scene i begins with Titania saying, “Sweet love, what desir’st thou to eat?” The changeling boy is still present as Titania tells Bottom to sleep. Puck and Oberon arrive, and Puck swoops down and picks up the boy. Oberon then says, “Now I have the boy, I will undo/This hateful imperfection of her eyes.” Of course, in the play he explains that Titania gave him the boy – Puck didn’t just simply steal him. When the hunting party comes upon the four lovers, Lysander and Hermia are together, but Demetrius and Helena are separate.

Act V

Most of the Mechanicals’ play is cut, including the entire bit regarding the chink in the wall. It basically only shows Pyramus’ death, cutting Thisby’s. The last line of dialogue is Oberon’s “Meet me all by break of day,” shockingly cutting Puck’s final speech. Instead, there is a bit of narration.

Time: 26 minutes

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