A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959 film)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Czech: Sen noci svatojánské) is a 1959 Czechoslovak animated puppet film directed by Jiří Trnka, his last feature length film before his death 10 years later in 1969. It is based on the Shakespeare play of the same name.[3][4]

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]


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 versionEdit

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

Voice castEdit



  • "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.
  • 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 readingEdit

External linksEdit