IX Productions tackles William Shakespeare and the results are fun.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy written by Shakespeare. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. These include the adventures of four Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are drugged by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, and is widely performed across the world.
The story follows the lovers Lysander (Patrick Poe) and Hermia (Emma Cook), as they run away to the woods to try and escape the wishes of Hermia’s father, Egues (Roy Poe), that Hermia shall marry Demetrius (Michael Reiser). Unbeknownst to Lysander and Hermia, they are followed into the woods by Demetrius, trying to foil their plain, and Helena (Laura Kay Burt), trying to win the love of Demetrius. These lovers paths then cross with the fairy King Oberon (Richard J. Burt), and his mischievous servant Puck (Jeremy Riggs), wishing to help these lovers, Oberon dispatches Puck with a love potion. But things do not go as planned, and hilarity ensues.
The story opens with Hermia, who is in love with Lysander, and resistant to her father Egeus’ demand that she wed Demetrius, whom he has arranged for her to marry. Helena meanwhile pines unrequitedly for Demetrius. Enraged, Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law before Duke Theseus, whereby a daughter must marry the suitor chosen by her father, or else face death.
IX Productions made a feature-length adaption of the play which premiered at the Kansas City Film Fest. As with most of the Bard’s plays, there is an adjustment to the language. Each character plays the comedic beats with a vitality and fun attitude, which is refreshing. Once you get into the language, it is much easier to follow. People that are very familiar with Shakespeare will have no trouble following along.
It has been a while since I have seen the play, or any film adaptation, so I was intrigued that a new film version was coming out, and with some talent I had met before. The hard work and the fun that everyone seemed to be having was contagious. Even a play, as old and as well known as this, made a modern audience laugh. I saw this with a particularly enthusiastic crowd on a Friday night.
One thing that I take away from this effort is the blending of the theatrical community with the filmmaking community. Some of our finest actors have done stage work, and make the logical, but not always comfortable step of being on camera. All of the actors, handled it with class.
Lolo Laren’s confident direction, and love of the Bard shine through with each comedic moment, and eloquent language from the centuries old text. For lack of a better phrase, if the theater crowd would collaborate more with the film making crowd, then magic can happen, and that is what happened here.
Doing a work with magical elements, and a very popular play adaptation will certainly have some drawbacks. The technical and post production side of the film is the only point where I saw some room for improvement. I tried hard to see past these minor flaws, but it did take me out of the momentum of the work a few times. (I only mention these, as I have personally made these mistakes as well. )
Certain scenes, filmed near a fountain had various audio popping in and out of the sound mix. Another pass on the audio would be instrumental in removing the trickling of water from some of those moments, and a constant audio of a fountain could be put in properly to not damage the dialogue that the actors are performing. Some obvious ADR was blended with production audio, and it dropped a few halts to the flow of the story. (Dialogue that cannot be salvaged from production tracks must be re-recorded in a process called looping or ADR.)
The editing was a a bit haphazard in some spots, where in other spots it was truly following a rhythm. The fountain scene again had a strange staccato edit, with one actor’s heads moving around the screen in three different angles in less than a few seconds. The editor in me was screaming, but I moved past it.
Finally, a stylistic choice of filming in a forest was the only other flaw. I am aware that a large chunk of the play takes place in a forest. There were several scenes that seemed as if there were filmed with one light. Dark and mysterious moonlight is ideal, but at least put a back light against the woods to let us see things other than pools of blackness, and actors that were not lighted as well as they could have been.
This is an opinion, and it might have been a purposeful choice on the photography, but if you are choosing to film in near darkness, take the time to light that forest. Look at about ten minutes of Ridley Scott’s “Legend” (1985), and a forest can be as amazing as your actors. On a big screen, the visuals can stand out, good and bad.
All those flaws aside, the charm of the production shows through. The cast will go on to do more work, as well as the crew. Making a feature, with a low budget is always a challenge, and the lessons learned on this one will serve the next film project well.