The elements of fantasy in a Midsummer Night’s Dream are apparent throughout the movie and there are many examples of this that relate to the real world. In the play the fantasy world and real world exist apart from each other, never meeting at any point. The inhabitants of the fairy world are unreal in the sense that they lack feelings and intelligence. The dream world, beyond mortal’s comprehension, strongly influences the entire realm of ordinary life. By nature of their humanity, Oberon’s power causes vulnerability in the human world.
This fairy kingdom is essentially a dream, which appears whenever reason goes to sleep, and during this time Oberon controls all things. Such illusions and dreams, created by Oberon, can be dangerous if they block out human’s perception of reality. As the play proves, these dreams perform an important function in life. The fairies never think and love, which explains all of the deceit and odd events that go on during the play. This is acceptable in their world, because all the laws that govern the world of reality have no existence in the dream world.
The lover’s fall between these two worlds and are affected by both. The fairies make fools of the lovers, because humans are not accustomed to the fairy’s realm. In the real world, Hermia is sensible and Lysander is reasonable. They want to be together even against Egeus’ commands, which is reasonable thinking. As soon as the two are alone, imagination takes control of them and they are blinded as to the misfortunes that are bound to cross the course of true love. This causes them to run away.
Shakespeare’s imagination is vast enough to house fairy realms and the world of reality, including all the peculiar manifestations of either place. Also the ability to describe the separate and often quite dissimilar regions of the play’s universe by drawing on the rich resources of poetry. The words moon and water dominate the poetry of the play. Four happy days bring in another moon: but, O, me thinks, how slow. This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires. As a result of their enormous allusive potential, these images engender am entire network of interlocking symbols that greatly enrich the text.
The moon, water, and wet flowers conspire to extend the world of the play until it is as large as all imaginable life. The mood and water also explain the play’s mystery and naturality. The pattern of the play is controlled and ordered by a series of vital contrasts: the conflict of the sleeping and waking states, the interchange of reality and illusion, reason and imagination, and the disparate spheres of the influence of Theseus and Oberon. All is related to the portrayal of the dream state.
In this dramatic world where dreams are a reliable source of vision and insight, consistently truer than reality, they seek to interpret and transform. The imagery establishes the dream world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The night creates a mysterious mood. At night, the fairy realm takes control. These fairies are brainless and deceitful, which leads to controversy between the mortals. The two worlds, united by moonlight, are active during their respectable times of the day. In the play, the fairy world is dominant, because there is only one scene containing daylight.
In Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge there is a lot of absurd dream logic at the end of the story both in Fahrquhar’s reflections and his situation: the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs, and so is some kind of protection. This ignores the other effect of strangulation. The description Whenever I see a literary classic turned into a movie with its author’s name as part of the already well-known title, I regard it as a danger sign. Remember Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and the overextended music video known as William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?
Given the less-than-likely prospect of anyone supposing that Dracula, Anna Karenina, and Romeo and Juliet might be written by anyone but their respective illustrious authors, the tacking on of their names seems a blatant and desperate attempt to borrow respectability for, aesthetically speaking, a lost cause. So it is with the new William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It isn’t a total disaster, and it gives Shakespeare slightly better billing than the famous Max Reinhardt version of 1935 with Olivia de Havilland, Jimmy Cagney, and Mickey Rooney, with its listing of two screenwriters, then, in smaller type, Shakespeare.
You can tell who didn’t have an agent on the scene to protect him. In this new version, the actors need more protection than they get in Michael Hoffman’s sometimes pretty but decidedly pedestrian production that goes the leafy bower route, but misses entirely the moonlit lyricism and poetry. It thus misses the play’s subtext and dualities of the regulated rational world of the dukedom played against the gossamer strands of id bubbling up from underneath the sleeping superegos in the nocturnally liberated natural world of the forest.
You know there’s a gaping lack in any Midsummer Night’s Dream production that peaks with the Pyramus and Thisbe travesty. Here it’s the best element by far, not only because Kevin Kline is one of the few actors whose recitation of the lines isn’t an embarrassment, but because he’s got the training and finesse to project the wistful dreamer as well as the overweening ass in Bottom the Weaver. Part of the fun in Shakespeare in Love was its way of convincing us Shakespeare knew how insecure actors behave. Here’s the play that confirms it.
Kline’s performance not only is deliciously funny, but is touched with a nobility that eludes almost all the nominal nobles. It’s buttressed by Bill Irwin, Max Wright, and even, for a rarity, the piping Thisbe, played here by Sam Rockwell. There’s not much romantic yearning in the romantic couples, who are relegated to the rambunctious farce normally associated with the rustics. After a few ill-judged displays of skin, they thud into a display of mud wrestling from which none emerge unscathed, especially Calista Flockhart’s querulous Helena.
Before Ally McBeal made her famous, Flockhart did some terrific work in a couple of films seen by few – Telling Lies in America and Drunks – but her luck runs out here. So does Michelle Pfeiffer’s. She’s a terrific-looking Titania, which means not just that she looks golden and dreamy, but is convincing as a fairy queen in a jangly snit. Still, she needs more coaching than she got to get her voice around the lines in anything like a musical fashion, which never happens here. Rupert Everett is one of the few who does speak Shakespeare’s lines well. Again, training shows. But his Oberon has little screen time.
Stanley Tucci gives us an interestingly earthy Puck, but is undone in the end by too much eyeballing and mugging. As for the music, Hoffman has augmented the usual Mendelssohn (the acting isn’t anywhere near as feathery as Mendelssohn’s writing) with such arias as Donizetti’s Una furtiva lagrime and Bellini’s Casta diva, possibly to bolster his case for setting the play in fin-de-siecle Tuscany, which doesn’t make its case nearly as convincingly here as it did in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. At best, Hoffman has given us a serviceable Midsummer Night’s Dream, but not a magical one when nothing less than magical will do.