Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some thoughts on "Much Ado About Nothing"

Claudio deceived by Don Jon accuses Hero
by Marcus Stone (1840-1921)

Watching Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado is my first memory of Shakespeare. The film has greatly added to our household dialect...

As in most of his movies, Branagh sticks close to the original script. He does jumble a couple scenes which actually make things less clear. He also takes out a couple of Dogberry's lines from IV.2 which show that he is the voice of "wisdom" as well as stupidity in the play.
Some clever responses of Don Pedro's to Dogberry are also taken out, but other than that and some general abridging the movie follows the play and certainly sticks with the spirit of it.

I think Branagh does an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare alive.

It is a very pretty movie with mostly bright outdoor scenes and an absolutely beautiful Patrick Doyle soundtrack. Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Micheal Keaton (even if he spooks you at first) and Denzel Washington all do an excellent job acting. Some of the other characters don't...but they aren't awful.

The movie is rated PG-13 and deserves it. There are two obvious scenes that are easy to skip. The only other iffy content is a little bawdy Shakespeare humor and some poor female clothing choices.

The 1984 version is also worth noting. Although it lacks the shininess and some of the life of the 1993 version, I believe it is completely unabridged and does have some strong points. We watched it some time ago and I was determined not to like it, I love the other so much. I couldn't help loving it.

Robert Lindsay does a great job as Benedict. Cherie Lunghi, as much as I am prejudiced against her, does do an interesting interpretation of Beatrice. If you are a Horatio Hornblower fan this might be hard for you, but they do a good job together. (These actors play Admiral Pellew and the Duchess.)

Don Pedro is disappointing. Hero and Claudio are nothing spectacular, but since they've never been my favorite I was okay with that. Because they are played flat it's easier to see the contrast between Beatrice and Benedict.

Some of the costumes made me laugh...

Overall, if you are studying the story, I think both versions help give a balanced view. The 1984 gives you more of a feel for it as a play instead of a movie.

I think the 1993 and 1984 are both available on Youtube.

Despite my love for As You Like It and some favorite passages in Twelfth Night, Much Ado probably makes it as my favorite comedy.

Benedict's cynicism often hits to close to home, but Shakespeare doesn't leave us with that. There is a true and strong love that can overcome problems. Yes, it might mean leaving some things behind. Yes, it changes friendships. It changes everything. But you still have a head and you need to use it.

Brightest Heaven of Invention by Peter Leithart gives some excellent food for thought on Much Ado. There is a lot going on in the play. If I have more time this week, I'll try to do a more intelligent post on the subject. However, you're best off reading Brightest Heaven of Invention for yourself.

If you have any suggestions for a Christian perspective on Much Ado or Shakespeare in general, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for reading.

If a merry meeting should be wished, God prohibit it!
Miss Pickwickian


KatySue Pillsbury said...

I've seen the first one and love it! The costumes, the humor, Emma Tompsons hair!
I'll have to check out the other versions, I didn't know there were any!

Molly @ A Bit O' Shine said...

Michael Keaton was so fantastically disgusting in the movie. :)
I love how Shakespeare frequently uses the "idiot" to bring truth to the situations. He must have liked it too as often as he used that. :)
That and he was probably giving all those scheming society people a virtual smack for fogging up life and thinking they are so great.

It *is* a bit tricky recommending this movie to some because of those certain PG-13 deserving scenes ESPECIALLY since one of them is so close to the beginning and I'm afraid it will frighten everyone away, lol. (For the uninitiated - it's a bathing scene.)

I'm a huge Horatio Hornblower fan so now I have to watch the 1984 version.

OldFashionedCharm said...

There's such witty banter in Much Ado, I love it! Much Ado 1993 is one of my family's favorite films (excepting the 2 scenes we skip). Kenneth Branagh as Benedick is so funny! And I love that purity before marriage is upheld and valued in this story.
Today I posted about Twelfth Night, it's my favorite Shakespeare play now, I just love it!

~Miss Laurie
Old-Fashioned Charm

Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing" very much! I like Benedict and Beatrice better than Hero and Claudio too.


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Noah Arsenault said...

Great post! I haven't watched the whole movie (newer one), but want to soon!

My school is performing this play, and I was casted in it. Care to guess which character I'm portraying?

Miss Pickwickian said...

Thanks for the comments.

Molly...yes, it's terrible that all that had to be added in. Fortunately a skip button does the trick on the first scene.

Noah...Do you get to play Dogberry? Conrad? Borachio? I'm guessing it's something rather funny...

I would love to be in a performance of this!

You should watch the 1993 version. It is amazing!

Thanks for your thoughts, all.

Noah Arsenault said...

Miss Pickwickian, one of your guesses was right! I am going to play Conrad! *evil smile* First time in a play and I get to be a villain! :)

Happy Homemaker said...

I liked the recent movie, though I've never seen the old.