British director Peter Hall's 1968 filmization of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring the Royal Shakespeare Company, is faithful to the text and to the main plot, which involves the "bewitching" of several groups of mortals by a covey of mischievous invisible fairies. So why did critics complain? Hall's handling of Shakespeare's prose and iambic pentameter didn't bother the purists as much as the director's visual choices. Hall was criticized for staging the film in a typically rainy British winter rather than the mid-Summer alluded to in the play's title. The director responded by pointing out that the fairies, led by Oberon and Titania, were deliberately toying with the expectations and sensibilities of the Mortals -- thus, it made sense to confuse the "human" characters by playing havoc with the weather. Other stylistic alterations included updating the story to the 19th century, and the near-nudity of Judi Dench as Titania. Most of the film is shot in close-up (most effectively during the soliloquies of Diana Rigg, as Helena), not so much to hide budgetary deficiencies as to play better on television. Also featuring Ian Holm (as Puck) Barbara Jefford, Helen Mirren, Michael Jayston, Paul Rogers, Ian Richardson and David Warner, this Midsummer Night's Dream premiered in the U.S. on the CBS TV network on Sunday evening, February 9, 1969.
by Hal Erickson synopsis