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A Midsummer Night's Dream

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Geek Boutique 2016 Geek Boutique HQP

Editorial Reviews


This independent film made by Virus Theatre and unfolding in the mountains and forests of the Southwest U.S. is a quirky and offbeat but always illuminating film version of Shakespeare's play. Making full use of outdoor locations--a ruined concrete building and rocky outcrops--the film transforms Shakespeare's early modern Athenian lovers into squabbling backpackers disoriented by a displacement into unfamiliar natural environs. Casting is imaginative and, in keeping with the general conceit, purposefully non-conventional: not only are some parts switched in terms of gender, others are given an unexpected twist. Bottom (Sam Bensusen) is a bearded would-be thespian who speaks with an Irish brogue; Oberon (Dominic Dahl-Bredine) is a dreadlocked and Gothicized type; and Puck (Becca Anderson) appears as a distinctly earth-bound spirit in glasses and dungarees. Even if most of the language of the play is retained with few cuts, which will make the DVD attractive to students and teachers, this remains a Shakespeare angled towards a radical re-envisioning of the Bard and revelling in opportunities for change and experiment. Matching the insouciant approach to Shakespearean representational tradition, visuals are consistently inventive, functioning in such a way as to approximate the woozy dream-like experiences of the original. Shots of seas and lightning, cut into the action proper, dovetail with the dialogue and make available postmodern realizations of Shakespearean language and allusion. Green-tinged filters offer reminders of the role of nature in shaping human action, while inserts of animals, such as fighting stags, reinforce the sense of primal erotic conflict. Stylistically, the film is trick heavy; indeed, it turns into a veritable showcase of imported cinematic artifice and graphic expertise. Colourful compositions show fragments of Shakespeare's text illuminated on screen as if in acknowledgement of the reputation of the work that is being adapted, the effect of which is to place characters' anxieties and motivations in another register. The speeding up of the physical business of the mechanicals--hand-held camera work is to the fore--makes them akin to silent film comedians and grants their rehearsals a slapstick emphasis, while the superimposition of images gives to the whole a pronounced selfconsciousness. Indeed, at several points, not least in the mechanicals' performance, cameras are glimpsed, which highlights the labour that informs the filmic product. All is anti-realist and off-key; the stress is on surprise and provocation and on keeping the spectator in a heightened sense of critical engagement. In diegetic terms, it is consistently centred on placing word and sound together in a productive relation. The film's soundtrack, a specially composed score by Joseph Rivers, makes a virtue of its polymorphous influences, for Gaelic strains combine with twangy lullabies in an evocative invocation of non-western aural effects (helped by the use of the Indian flute) and Elizabethan-style musical accompaniments (sounds of the viol bring a Shakespearean world to mind). Notably successful is the way in which the film deploys music to draw attention to dialogic specifics; for example, the recreation of an early modern soundscape matches shots of beetles, snakes and spiders, apt images for Shakespeare's preoccupation with natural denizens. The to-and-fro synthesized strains of the score also approximates the unpredictable nature of a character's experience, as is reflected in Helena's (Teresa Dahl-Bredine's) constant yoyoing, an index of her emotional vicissitude. When, towards the close, the characters appear in smarter dress, having left behind their student-type identities, the suggestion is that, via a dream-like transformation, a greater calm and stability have been achieved. --Prof. Mark Thornton Burnett, Queen's Univ. --Viewfinder, October 2011, No. 84, 30

Product Details

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004B793BK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,570 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Having been present for most of the shooting of this movie, I am at once a biased reporter and a privileged witness. In fact a fair bit of what appears on the screen passed through my camera.

Shakespeare's story has been in production more or less continuously for over 400 years. It has its own life, incarnating upon innumerable stages through countless casts and directors. It has lived into the time of motion pictures, appearing in diverse real and constructed locations.

This version unfolds in a fairyland lovingly evoked in rural New Mexico. It burrows in caves, clings to cliffsides, dances in forests. If you want your Shakespeare blocked out on stage, this one is not for you. If you love the story and the permutations of it, you'll enjoy this telling.

If you are dedicated to extreme low-budget movie production or aspire to such work, the piece will be both inspirational and instructive. It demonstrates how craft, imagination, skill and patience can work magic from almost nothing - especially in comparison to the production budgets of today's super-glossy "real" movies.

As is often the case with bare-bones productions, sound quality suffers at times. A few lines are hard to understand, especially given the unfamiliar language and phrasing. But the players ARE acting. If your ears didn't catch some words their body language conveys mood and meaning.

Occasionally a performer or interaction falters and I wish there had been another, better take. But this happens also on stage, where there are no retakes. In these bits momentum is quickly recovered...the ball may be fumbled but it is never dropped.
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A micro-budget production, and a charming bit of Americana. It's filmed in the wilderness, which offered some beautiful shots. The acting, on the other hand, is suburban in scope, starring everytown's local acting troupe, but scores some laughs. Don't expect the RSC, it's amateur fun.

The fairy scenes are lovingly composed, a real delight. The whole production is safe for children. Four stars, grading on a steep amateur curve, the mechanicals were that much the funnier for it.
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This Midsummer Night's Dream will surprise and delight you. The directorial choices of Bo Bergstrom will make you marvel at the richness of his homespun production AND wonder why conventional films are so conservative.

There is so much more texture that could be explored that most directors, in their slavish thrall to narrative, simply ignore. Notable exceptions are Julie Taymor and Peter Greenaway. Bergstrom's MND is a lot of fun. With the accessibility of effects in software editing programs why not explore the possibilities so the film becomes more painterly. The altered palette in the dance between Titania, Oberon and the changeling is really beautiful as is the music and the chorus work. The blurry distortions of faces adds to the psychological POV of a character. Bergstrom uses font play and graphic inserts to reiterate the script. "What fools these mortals be" and "You acorn" etc. are highlighted and often tied back to the titles.

I enjoyed the concept/settings: caves, New Mexico national park woods and the deserted industrial site. Theater has used off-gender casting to great effect and so does Bergstrom.

Don't resist the spell. May you keep reason and love in your company.
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Warning: This review below was written for the 2010 Virus Theatre production , not for the 1968 Peter Hall directed performance with Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, and Ian Richardson. Amazon put the one review to the two very different productions.

***** Based on now having seen five films of the play, I would rate this Peter Hall direction with at least 4 1/2 stars, based mostly on strong acting from a cast, most of whom would become well known in British and American film. This production is nicely balanced, giving good emphasis to all parts of Shakespeare's play; however the lions share of talent is given to the fairy characters and to the two pair of young lovers. The Mechanicals subplot gets full time, but less name talent; however, they match the impression of stronger casts, without quite reaching the heights of James Cagney in the role of Bottom. The half star loss is mostly due to the weak acting by Michael Jayston and David Warner as Demetrius and Lysander, and the really weak realization of Bottom's ass's head. The fairy effects are nicely done with live children actors, although Ian Holm's special effects seem a bit strained.

In the recent Hollywood version with Kevin Kline's being turned into an ass, they did it much better by just applying simple makeup and appliances to Kline's face, plus ass's ears. Ian Holm as Puck and Diana Rigg as Helena were good in those key roles, although Rigg does not put quite as much into it as did Callista Flockhart in the 1999 Hollywood version. Ian Richardson and Judi Dench were believable as Oberon and Titania, but those roles always seem to be difficult to pull off, as are the roles of the Duke Theseus and his bride Hippolyta.
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