Gayle Allan
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‘I’ll put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes’
Representing the supernatural in film adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
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While stage adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have grappled with representing fairies and fairy flight since the play’s early performances at the original Globe, the ‘magic’ of film offered possibilities of supernature not previously available to stage productions. Initially this capability was fully exploited in early adaptations of the Dream such as Vitagraph’s 1909 silent adaptation, and Max Reinhardt’s spectacular 1935 film for Warner Brothers. As cinema matured, and our reading of the play changed, the heavy reliance on special effects made way for other, more subtle techniques. Film directors took differing approaches in representing the fairies’ supernatural powers and their materiality, offering new and exciting ways to ‘read’ the fairies. This chapter explores how the fairies are represented in a number of film adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1909 through to 2016, and considers the effect that film ‘magic’ has on realising the supernatural in the play.

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