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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 55:00)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    French, Spanish, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras

    A Midsummer Night's Dream

    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 116 mins . PG . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    Fox are getting good at the Shakespeare thing. In 1997, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet was released as a bare-bones retail disc onto the Region 4 market, boasting a technically stunning transfer. In 2001, Fox released the Red Curtain Trilogy box set, containing the Special Edition of Romeo + Juliet, featuring the same stunning transfer and a fantastic collection of extras. It’s now A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s turn to be released on the Region 4 DVD market, and by the look of things history may be repeating itself. The transfer on this DVD is technically stunning, but misses out in the extras department. So does this mean that in a few years we get a Special Edition? With the fickleness of the Region 4 DVD market, probably not, but hey, if you’re after a fun rendition of a comic Shakespeare play with an amazing transfer to boot, go no further, because it’s right here now with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Directed with finesse by Michael Hoffman, A Midsummer Night’s Dream magically comes to life with such a talented and all-star cast. Each and every cast member brings something unique and special to the piece, making this a truly memorable Shakespearian event. Set in the 19th century (as opposed to Shakespeare’s 16th century setting), a whole contemporary theme has been adopted, echoing throughout the costumes, art direction, design and music for the film. But nevertheless, it works, and works well.

    A common theme throughout many of Shakespeare’s plays is that of mistaken identity, a theme which plays a large part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the film unfolding around the comedic events that follow. This is by far one of Shakespeare’s more complex plays, relationship-wise anyway. What starts out as A with B and C with D quickly changes to a variety of different combinations – something that may require some to have a double-take. Like Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream looks at the playful and silly nature of human beings, some pawns in a greater being’s board game. But the foolish and absurd nature of life and love are not captured fully in Hoffman’s interpretation and this causes the film to take on a far more serious tone rather than being a light-hearted comic romp, losing the essence of the Shakespearian feel of the play.

    OK so here we meet two strapping young men – Demetrius (Bale) and Lysander (West) who both want the same woman, Hermia (Friel). However Hermia (not to be confused with hernia), wants Lysander, but Hermia’s father wants Demetrius for a son-in-law. Don’t worry, I’m confused too. And now enter Helena (Flockhart), Hermia’s best friend, who has the hots for Demetrius, but sadly her feelings are unrequited. So the lovebirds Lysander and Hermia plan to run away into the Enchanted Forest, but Demetrius is seriously peeved at the idea and follows, with Helena blindly and lovingly stumbling in Demetrius’s footsteps. So now we meet a group of actors planning a play for Theseus’ (Strathairn) wedding, who rush off to the forest on Midsummer Eve to rehearse for the play, but this is the day that the fairies of the Enchanted Forest come out to play. King Oberon (Everett) and Queen Titania (Pfeiffer), the rulers of the fairies, are in their own arguments about a boy that Titania has taken but Oberon wants. In order to succeed, Oberon asks his servant Puck (Tucci) to find a flower that makes the victim... er subject fall in love with the first thing they see. However Puck runs amok (haha) and creates havoc for the actors and escapees in the forest, causing severe and utter confusion. But as is with all Shakespeare plays, a concise conclusion awaits at the end, sorting every loose thread out.

      Video
    Contract

    Fox’s tradition of fantastic transfers continues with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and boy is she a beauty. It's presented in a close-to-the-theatrical-aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (originally 2.40:1) and is anamorphically enhanced – something that us Region 4-ers can proudly say is much better than the Region 1 counterpart, which lacks this enhancement – and that’s with the PAL vs NTSC debate out of the window.

    Colours are vibrantly mastered, flamboyantly capturing all of the courageously comic characters with such crisp and clear results. Black levels, along with the accompanying shadows, are perfectly mastered, display a simply joyous picture to watch.

    Aliasing and posterisation effects are kept to an absolute minimum, with the odd occurrence popping through the screen, and thankfully blocking effects are nowhere to be seen – even in the busiest of scenes. With the bang-up job that Fox did with Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, they really know how to master Shakespeare on DVD, capturing the busy, bright and bustling scenes with the smallest of issues stopping these transfers from being reference quality.

      Audio
    Contract

    Four Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in a variety of languages have been thrown on this disc, with the English (well, rather Elizabethan) being the prime listening option. With the film heavily relying on dialogue, it is tremendous to see that there are no synch issues whatsoever, and the dialogue reaches the audience clearly from the centre speaker with no muffles or distortions. While we’re on about dialogue, Elizabethan English has been used, maintaining the Shakespearean language from the play, and may take a while for some audiences to become accustomed to. But the beauty in Shakespeare’s words is worth the effort of tuning in for anyone.

    Surprisingly, the surround speakers actively and heavily contribute to the soundstage, providing rich ambience and solidly supporting the score, and orchestral pieces from the likes of Verdi. The constructed soundstage may not be the best example of discrete 5.1 effects, but it does give a full enveloping sound and a fantastic fidelity too.

      Extras
    Contract

    OK the joke's over, where did Puck put those extras? No... really...

      Overall  
    Contract

    Start building your Shakespeare collection with Fox... Romeo + Juliet is a fantastic DVD at an affordable price, and now A Midsummer Night’s Dream hits the shelves with an equally stunning transfer. So do yourself a favour, and grab this DVD before Puck mischievously runs off with more than just the extras – this is a disc that should be welcome in nearly everyone’s collection.


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      And I quote...
    "Fox are getting good at the Shakespeare thing..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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