A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Probably no other play in the Shakespeare corpus is as over-exposed as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It seems that everyone has done a production of it at one point or another. One can only be amazed, therefore, at the play’s resilience and responsiveness to varied handling, and at the extent to which each of the filmed versions actually offers something worthwhile to the viewer. None, I think, is flawless, but the fact that it can be approached in so many ways, all of them giving some real value to the story, is a testament to its integrity as a play. Viewing several of them makes a superb case study in why these plays can be treated in so many different ways, while still remaining Shakespeare.
With the possible exception of The Tempest, moreover, probably no other Shakespeare play lends itself so handily to cinematic spectacle. From the earliest attempts at it, there has been a tendency to mine the rich fantastical center of the story to create visual extravaganzas at the limits of available technology and imagination. While arguably this is not essential to the experience of the play as a whole, at the same time it is not at all alien to the mad wonderland we’re invited to visit here, and if it’s not completely undisciplined, it can be quite wonderful.