Writing for a movie review for the Rolling Stone Movies on the released adaptation on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Movie buff cum journalist Tina shares her say on this new take. Not a fan reading the famous Bard plays? The only reference you make to Shakespeare is ‘to be or not to be’? Or you just want to find out how big a deal is this immortalized figure that has been given much recognition throughout time. Catering to the masses, those who need not be a scholar in Shakespearean works nor need understanding of the Shakespearean English can enjoy this motion picture which was the directorial debut for Kenneth Branagh.
The celebrated Irish actor who has taken on roles in other Shakespearean plays that have been brought into the cinematic world. The adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing into a motion picture was taken on by the renowned Kenneth Branagh who has worked on a Shakespearean plays before like Henry V. He does a brilliant job at bringing the essence of the original play into life. The story centers around the group of soldiers returning from their months long war over the backdrop of the beautiful Italian countryside. Where the generous Leonato offers his house to the Prince of Aragon, his lieutenant Benedick and Claudio to stay.
This is where Claudio falls for the fair and innocent Hero, ‘wooing’ her and asking her hand in marriage. The scheme of tricking for Benedick and Beatrice to fall in love is one of the most intriguing and humorous scene in the movie. Branagh’s choice of cast where Denzel Washington plays a convincing prince who is a keen observer, the love struck single-expression Claudio played by Robert Sean Leonard, Emma Thompson as the fiercely independent and witty Beatrice, while Kate Beckinsale as the naive and object of admiration for Claudio.
The casts’ stellar portrayal of each character is the closest to the original play. Because it was meant as a social comedy on Shakespeare’s part, the movie played up the reactions between characters especially the banter between Benedick and Beatrice. Branagh himself plays the egoistic and self-admirable Benedick which compliments the vivacious Beatrice. The scene in which they are duped into believing the other is in love with them brings out the witty humor that Branagh and Thompson delivers eloquently. The best dialogues goes to these two as their constant bickering keeps movie-goers asking for more.
The cinematography boosts the magnificent Tuscan countryside houses as they had extensive footage on the scenery of Leonato’s house. The maze-like garden that is featured gives a different perspective where it adds to the effect of puzzles set up by different characters on the scene where Benedick and Beatrice ‘overhearing’ their love confession. The songs from the soundtrack backed up the beautiful scenery, completing the joyous and carefree atmosphere that has been set. The portrayal of Dogberry by Micheal Keaton was something I liked personally.
He may have overplayed it but it captures the comic relief that Shakespeare intended to have. Keaton’s exaggerated antics fit the role of a bumbling constable and is hilariously entertaining especially when dealing with the Watchman. While Keanu Reeves’ version of Don John comes off as indignant and silly at times, his eloquence in speech is rather limited. Thankfully he is a man of ‘Not many words’. There are different ways to put Shakespeare plays into different work of art. What Branagh was trying to turn an age-old Elizabethan theater play to more contemporary to be able to have relevance to the people.
Though it may come off as nothing like Shakespeare intended to have portrayed it in a similar way, Branagh spiced it up with interactions which happened out of the dialogues. So it may not have captured how true Shakespeare plays are meant to be put on, but this motion picture has catered to everyone young and old with no literature background. He has made Much Ado About Nothing a household name in adaptations of Shakespeare written plays. Look forward to catch it in the cinemas, as it premiers next week. Till then.