February 15th: The Missing Link

 

49. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Michael Hoffman, 1999)

I’m currently undertaking a Shakespeare course that attempts to introduce the theory and criticism of 8 of the man’s main plays, hence there’ll be a few Shakespeare reviews over the next few months. I’ll use these reviews as a primer for my later essay work on the course. 

This particular adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is populated by A-list Hollywood stars throughout the cast; evidently eager to flex their acting muscles in a part with a bit more respect attached to it. Christian Bale, Dominic West, Michelle Pfieffer, Rupert Everett, Kevin Kline all take parts in a story that really doesn’t have a central lead as such. What’s more interesting is Michael Hoffman’s direction, he has decided that his interpretation of the story is quite softly erotic and sensuous. Athens and its surrounding forest is a lush and luxurious place. There is a richness of colour and softness of tone that is mirrored in the performances – especially Rupert Everett as Faerie King Oberon. I had read Oberon as a commanding, magisterial role, instead I found this interpretation to be a playful, lounging presence. He seems to recline into every position with an air of decadence and lazy sexuality, his whispered lines controlling events in the forest.

I found the interpretation of the staged play by the ‘rude mechanicals’ much more entertaining than I when I read the play. As the plot has effectively wrapped itself up the story seems to concern itself overtly with the action of actually staging and watching a performance. Sam Rockwell, in particular, shines at this stage – making the scene his own with a difficult transition from laughably inept to a serious and heartfelt performance.