Alas, the version I saw was not the one listed here - with narration by Richard Burton and voices dubbed by luminaries of the Royal Shakespeare Company - but an alternative one with a very cloying woman (uncredited, and deservedly so!) who tells the whole story in voiceover. The result was less 'William Shakespeare Presents' than 'Tales for Toddler Time.' Frankly, I don't know why they bothered with narration at all, as Trnka's animation is so magically vivid as to make words superfluous.
In fact, this film is a masterpiece of visual storytelling - a reminder of just how wondrous animation can be when it doesn't insult a viewer's intelligence a la Walt Disney. Indeed, it's surprisingly adult at times. A randy goat (under the influence of magic love potion) tries to rape the fairy Puck. The two runaway lovers, Hermia and Lysander, slip into an eerily vulva-shaped cave to consummate their love. Strange, then, that Trnka cuts out the story's gay element - the desire of the Fairy King Oberon for the changeling boy. Perhaps that was more than Communist-era censors could take.
Otherwise, this is an exemplary reading of the text. Jiri Trnka's visualisation of the Enchanted Forest - every inch of it swathed in moonlight and dripping with rose petals, fairy wings, spying owls - rivals the Baroque splendours of the 1935 Max Reinhardt film. Even the amateur actors' performance of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' (an irksome comic interlude in most stagings) is transformed by Puck's magic into a heart-soaring experience. A must for anyone who loves Shakespeare - or, more important, anyone who doesn't - this is one dream you won't want to wake up from!
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