Shakespeare on the Big Screen

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

This summer, a new film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Casey Wilder Mott will be available to watch in cinemas. Mott has adapted the play to take place in modern day Hollywood rather than ancient Athens. The re-imagination of the play capitalizes on the reputation of Hollywood as a place where magic and reality meet.

This new movie follows a long history of film adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. There have been hundreds of film adaptations of his plays. The following are six notable adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

  1. 1909 silent film directed by Charles Kent and J. Stuart Blackton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjlc-8RRJ2c

This was the first film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is only ten minutes long! Fascinatingly, this film does not feature Oberon, the King of the Fairies. Instead, his character is replaced by a person named “Penelope.”

More on this film: https://medium.com/@trettleman/a-midsummer-nights-dream-of-1909-9c315db4100e

2. 1935 film directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle

Nmidnight_1935This film adaptation used Felix Mendelssohn’s music and choreographed ballet sequences for the fairies. Almost none of the actors had ever performed Shakespeare before. Unfortunately the film failed in the box office and received mixed reviews.  

3. 1968 film directed by Peter Hall

This film featured a cast of highly accredited actors including Dame Judi Dench (Skyfall) and Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings). Unlike the 1935 version, this film included a number of members from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Unfortunately, this film also received poor reviews.

4. 1980 film by BBC Television

This film was a part of the BBC Television series, Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. The director, Elijah Moshinsky, was inspired by the baroque painter, Rembrandt. As such, his production is slightly darker than the films that came before.

5. 1992 animated film

This animation was part of a series titled “Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.” There were twelve films in total, each a half-hour long. This film was considered a success and is still used today in educational environments.

89962a0feeada88a05b682be42d85b75--midsummer-nights-dream

6. 1999 film directed by Michael Hoffman

This is arguably the most famous A Midsummer Night’s Dream film today. It features famous actors such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, and Christian Bale. This film also used Mendelssohn’s incidental music and received fairly positive reviews.

Comment your favorite film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream below!

Sources:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/a-midsummer-nights-dream-adaptations-film-ballet-opera.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night%27s_Dream_(1935_film)#Critical_response

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night%27s_Dream_(1999_film)

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