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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Directed by Jiří Trnka
  • Czechoslovakia, 1959, 78 mins., Czech

In this bewitching adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic fairy tale, the love lives of mortals and forest sprites mingle during one magical moonlit evening. In his final feature—also the first CinemaScope film made in Czechoslovakia—Trnka deploys the full force of his imagination and technical wizardry to evoke the story’s enchanted woodlands setting, a garlanded, pastel dreamscape awash in starry-night atmosphere, colorful festoons of flowers, and exquisitely wrought fantasy creatures. The graceful puppetry combined with the Václav Trojan score and voiceover work by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company yields a masterpiece of surpassing, balletic beauty. Trnka shot the film in two versions, CinemaScope and the classic format. The English language version 35mm print on this tour is of the classic format.

Genres: Animation

Other Films by Jiří Trnka

A Star from the Start: Early Jiří Trnka Shorts

Trnka’s early shorts work quickly established him as a master filmmaker. This program includes The Animals and the Brigands (1946), Springman and the SS (1946), The Gift (1946), Romance with Double Bass (1949), Song of the Prairie (1949), Merry Circus (1951), and The Two Frosts (1954).

The Czech Year

Trnka established his reputation as a world-renowned master of puppet animation with his Venice prize-winning first feature, a kinetic visual symphony bursting with music and dance that celebrates the customs and folklore of the Czech people. Composed of six short episodes—the final of which, Bethlehem, was Trnka’s first-ever attempt at puppet animation—it traces one year

The Emperor’s Nightingale

Trnka’s adaptation of a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is an enchanting animated jewel box. Framed by live action sequences—about a lonely boy shut away from fun and play—the story unfolds as a child’s dream vision, a tale of illusion versus reality in which a Chinese emperor is ensorcelled first by the song of

Mature Mastery: Late Jiří Trnka Shorts

This program of late-career Trnka works includes The Good Soldier Švejk Part 3 (1954), Passion (1962), Cybernetic Grandma (1962), and Archangel Gabriel and Mistress Goose (1965), and The Hand (1965).

The Hand

Trnka’s last work is a powerful, deeply personal allegory about the plight of the artist toiling under the restrictions of a totalitarian government. The story of a simple sculptor who is menaced by a giant, disembodied hand that forces him to bend to its will, it was banned by the Communist censors for two decades—but