For this page, I’ll be reviewing a film, TV show, or book based on Shakespeare’s works that I think is worthwhile as an interpretation of Shakespeare or as a way to better understand the man and his work.
The first in a trilogy of posts analysing film adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespearean filmmakers.
The Play “Much Ado About Nothing”
- Year: 1993
- Cinematographer: Kenneth Branagh; Director:
- Ages: suitable for mature teens and young adults.
- The Media: A Feature Film (also available on DVD and Amazon Streaming)
- For Anyone: I think this would be a lot of fun for anyone, from teenagers to college students, who wants to relax with a classic romantic comedy.
- Branaugh aimed to create this film a visual feast, with Much Ado’s Messina representing the idealised version of Italy that many people have in their minds. He accomplishes this by depicting a world with lush hedges, bright sunshine, dashing troops, and curvy women in airy dresses. When the lords of Padua and Aragon arrive at the home of Seignior Leonato on their horses, the film immediately plunges viewers into a scene of romantic and dramatic action. After the conflict ends, everyone immediately strips down to their underwear and takes a refreshing dip in a fountain to wash away the filth and prepare for more pleasant activities. Brilliant and innovative cinematic storytelling.
Moments to Watch For
- In Particular, The Aforementioned Bathing Scene, which bursts with the kind of explosive energy and relief that compels you to adore the characters, is worth keeping an eye out for.
- These are the famous “Gulling scenes,” in which Benedick learns via his friends that Beatrice has proclaimed her love for him and Beatrice learns the same about Benedick from her friends. Branaugh’s rendition of the scenario concludes with a joyful montage of Benedick splashing around in a fountain, soaking himself, and smiling with a newfound sense of freedom. However, Beatrice is seen swinging on a long swing, smiling broadly and appearing both royal and childlike as she soars through the air.
- The Church Scene, often known as Act IV, Scene 1 or the “Kill Claudio” Scene. This is the bar I set for myself when I performed this scene in graduate school. It’s important to keep in mind that these two actors were in fact married during filming, and their genuine affection for one another and willingness to be completely honest on screen is palpable. You believe Branaugh when he says, “I do love nothing in the world so much as you.” Similarly, the argument between Beatrice and Benedick appears to be the worst form of family dispute because Benedick sided with the Prince against Hero. She knocks over pulpits, screams and curses, and then collapses, defeated by her own futile actions. Any man in his right mind would do anything to make her happy again after hearing that. Featuring two of the finest Shakespearean performers working today, this scene is a tour de force.
My thoughts are that Much Ado About Nothing is a true masterpiece, one that I hope will endure the test of time, and that its director, Kenneth Branaugh (who recently resigned from Shakespeare and directed such modern hits as Cinderella and Thor), deserves great credit for his work. It’s well-written and directed, and the acting is legendary. Despite his reputation as a narcissist, Branaugh doesn’t steal the show in Much Ado but instead gives equal billing to the entire cast.
The only real problem with the film is that Keanu Reeves was cast as Don John, despite the fact that he is a terrible choice because he is neither a native English speaker nor an experienced actor. However, the Oscar-worthy performances from the rest of the cast more than make up for the movie’s bad casting.
Notable Cast Members
Starring Emma Thompson as Beatrice, Kenneth Branagh as Benedick, Denzel Washington as Don Pedro, and Kate Beckinsale as Hero, the cast includes many more well-known actors.
Five Shakespearean globes are the recommended grade.