A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959 film)

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A Midsummer Night's Dream
Directed byJiří Trnka
Produced byErna Kmínková
Jaroslav Mozis
Screenplay by
Based onA Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare [1]
Narrated byRudolf Pellar
CinematographyJiří Vojta
Edited byHanna Valachova
Release date
  • 25 September 1959 (1959-09-25)
Running time
76 minutes [2]

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Czech: Sen noci svatojánské) is a 1959 Czechoslovak animated puppet film directed by Jiří Trnka. It is based on the Shakespeare play of the same name. [3] [4]


Trnka, working under the Czech communist regime who had previously been denied in his wish to adapt Don Quixote, worked for several years on his adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The film established a new pinnacle of craftmanship: Cerise Howard, discussing the film in a retrospective on Trnka for Senses of Cinema, describes the puppet animation as "more liquid, more balletic than ever";[5] the scenes between Nick Bottom and Titania are "achingly tender";[5] Titania's train is "an especially astonishing, luminous creation … constituted of tens of fairies, individually animated amidst reams of gorgeous, extensive coral garlanding".[5] Overall the film is "distinguished by exquisite design throughout".[5]

Beyond the artistic aspects the film was technically advanced. Trnka used expensive Eastmancolor stock, which was "exceedingly rare for Czech productions of the period".[5] Every scene was shot with two cameras simultaneously—one shooting Academy ratio, and one shooting in the then new CinemaScope format, effectively producing an in-camera Pan-and-scan version—all so Trnka could ensure that his widescreen production would not be presented letterboxed. The film thus exists in two definitive editions.[5]

The score was provided by Václav Trojan.[6]


The film received a lukewarm initial response,[5] but was entered into the 1959 Cannes Film Festival where it tied for the Prix de la meilleure sélection (the selection of the Technical Committee) alongside Vojtěch Jasný's Desire (Czech: Touha).[7] It also won an Honourable Medal at the 20th Venice International Film Festival in 1959; first prize for best film in Bucharest in 1960; second prize in Montevideo in 1960; and first prize—the "Golden Mercury"—for music in Valencia in 1962.[8]

English-language version[edit]

An English-language dubbed version was made with narration by Richard Burton and voice work by Alec McCowen.[9][10]

Voice cast[edit]



  • "Sen noci svatojánské". 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Festival de Cannes.
  • Howard, Cerise (February 2013). "The Passion of the Peasant Poet: Jiří Trnka, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Hand". Cinémathèque Annotations on Film. Senses of Cinema (66). ISSN 1443-4059. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  • "The Midsummer Night's Dream". Krátký Film Praha Catalogue.
  • Polt, Harriet R. (1964). "The Czechoslovak Animated Film". Film Quarterly. University of California Press. 17 (3): 31–40. doi:10.2307/1210908. eISSN 0015-1386. ISSN 0015-1386. JSTOR 1210908 – via JSTOR.
  • Raup, Jordan (20 March 2018). "The Puppet Master: The Complete Jiri Trnka, Starting April 20, Celebrates a Czech Animation Pioneer". FilmLinc Daily. Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  • Rothwell, Kenneth S. (2000) [first published 1999]. A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-59404-9.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]