One of the finest screen versions of the immortal Shakespeare comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream does suffer slightly from the period in which it was filmed. The costuming is not such a problem -- the mixture of 1960s styles with 19th century attire actually works well, producing an effect that is both disconcerting and comforting, and seems appropriate for what is, after all, a fantasy. Peter Suschitzky's jumpy, handheld camera does become annoying in places, but overall it's quite effective and gives a sense of immediacy to the proceedings. More problematic is the editing, which is sometimes choppy to the point of incomprehension. Clearly, director Peter Hall was going for a Richard Lester feel, but the effort comes across as a little forced. Still, these flaws seem minor when compared with the faithfulness with which the text has been preserved and -- more importantly -- with the dream of a cast that Hall has gathered. Diana Rigg is a glorious Helena, Helen Mirren adds depth to the often-misunderstood Hermia, and David Warner is a charming Lysander. Paul Rogers is quite possibly the best Bottom captured on film, playing the truth of the comedy rather than playing for laughs, and he and the enticing Judi Dench make a wonderfully queer pair. Michael Jayston is a bit wan as Demetrius, but Ian Holm's Puck is a malevolent delight. Warner and Hall would work together two years later, in Perfect Friday.
by Craig Butler review