A couple of years back, we had a very stylized presentation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, with gangsters and guns in it. Here is another such movie that takes certain liberties with the time of the story. A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's most hilarious plays. The movie, which stars some big names, is fortunately pretty good too. The director has taken the liberty of setting the play in the beginning of the nineteenth century, in Italy. As the narration puts it: necklines are high; parents are rigid; and marriage is seldom a matter of love.
In this background you have Lysander and Hermia, who love each other. Hermia's father however has chosen Demetrius (Christian Bale) for her. Demetrius is a fickle youth who has spurned the love of Helena to woo Hermia. The case is put before the Duke, and he orders Hermia to marry her father's choice and orders her execution if she refuses. Having no alternative left, Lysander and Hermia run away into the woods. Demetrius follows them and Helena (Calista Flockhart), in a bid to convince him, follows him.
The lovers are not alone in the woods. Titania (Titinia) and Oberon (Rupert Everett), the queen and the king of the fairies, have had a major tiff, and Oberon is thirsting for vengeance. He gives a magical flower to his mischievous assistant, Puck (Stanley Tucci), so as to cast a magical spell on Titania. But Puck, apart from using the flower on Titania, casts spells on the lovers too, causing loads of confusion.
Then there are a group of country bumpkins who are practising a play for the next day's fair. One of them, Nick Bottom (Kevin Kline), is one helluva buffoon, and Puck chooses him to embarrass Titania. Finally, all the confusion is sorted and the lovers unite, and even the Duke grants approval to their marriage. The bumpkins perform a hilarious play, funny for all the wrong reasons. Titania and Oberon patch up their differences, and the maxim "All's well that ends well" prevails.
Good performances by great actors mark the film. The language that is partially Victorian gets a little cumbersome at times. But the movie should definitely be seen to appreciate the bard's style of building up an intricate play. Michelle Pfeifer as Titania is absolutely gorgeous, and Kevin Kline as Nick Bottom is hilarious, at the same time a very touching actor.
The movie could have been recommended for the whole family, but for the distributors who have marketed it as a porn flick and have thrown in a 5-minute, totally irrelevant lovemaking scene. A tragic disgrace indeed. The poor bard must be spinning in his grave.