MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
DIRECTOR: KENNETH BRANAGH
COUNTRY: ENGLAND 1993
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ROGER LANSEC
MUSIC: PATRICK DOYLE
CAST: Kenneth Branagh (Benedict), Richard Briers(Leonardo), Michael Keaton (Dogberry), Keanu Reeves (Don John), Robert Sean Leonard (Claudio), Emma Thonpson (Beatrice), Denzel Washington (Don Pedro), Kate Beckinsale (Hero), Brian Blessed(Antonio).
SUPER FEATURES: The acting. The staging of the play. Michael Keaton!
William Shakespeare is fun to do, even if the stories are a bit on the deus-ex-machina side of things. And the English theatre has for many
years been known for its interpretations of the master thespian, in various ways. Some are adventurous productions that defy the imagination,
like Macbeth done in Nazi outfits. Some other ways are unusual, like Peter Brook's fabulous interpretation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM...and other productions simply try to innovate the style with well placed dialogue and beautiful visuals, namely Franco Zeffirelli.
And then, there is Kenneth Branagh. His productions, like HENRY V, are, by all standards, plain and simple, period pieces, with excellent acting, and well thought out film scenarios to help the play come across as well written, and well thought out. On stage, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, is a mess.... you have to know the play, and know the meanderings, to stay in touch with the story, and the eventual outcome. The "funny" and "fancy" dialogue, at times distracts the whole thing. But, on film, one can manipulate things just enough, to make the story comprehensive and clear... so did Franco Zeffirelli at least twice, and so has Kenneth Branagh, at least one other time. One gets the feeling, that, since he is a well trained Shakespearean actor, he knows the plays so well inside out, that he only has to decide what he wants to do with it.... and make sure that people can follow it easily enough.
Needless to say, this production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, is probably as clear as you will ever see and understand the whole thing.... it is simplified to the chasing of the two main characters in the story, Beatrice and Benedict. And the rest that is brought to light, is just
the stuff that deal with them, either coming apart, or coming together.
What is left, is an incredible array of well cast people, in very choicy roles. For the lover Don Pedro, Denzel Washington is cast, and being a dark man, he brings up the well thought out stories of the moor being good lovers, and the other fantasies that had been around for many years, in both Italy and Spain. For the crazy, Dogberry, an American is cast, and they let him run amuck with the whole thing, pretty much stealing the show.... it is a shame that HE DIDN'T get the a nomination for any awards, because his rendition of the nutty Dogberry, could keep an audience on its feet the whole show. In the English isles, the consensus has always been that Americans are a bit too wild.... excellent cast. And for the sharp witted, star crossed lovers, of course, you got to have two Britons.... Kenneth and Emma. And Beatrice gets the better of the two roles, for she has a much sharper tongue than Benedict. She doesn't have to show off to the girls around her. He has to keep up with his image. And in between, are many other well cast people, that make this play so enjoyable that it may very well be the next best Shakespeare that you can enjoy, other than ROMEO AND JULIET.
With a beautiful set up, and great period music, this film plods along, although I (personally) might find it slow, since I know the play. And it makes for a wonderful evening of entertainment.
Well directed, and well designed from a camera point of view to make the whole thing clear (the play does not offer such wonderful insights),
one can appreciate the dialogue between characters (and who is saying something in the middle of anyone else's lines -- the main cause of the confusions on stage) much better, and realize to whom each line is delivered, and which lines are the character's thinking.
Well worth your consideration, for a very entertaining show... beware that the exchanges of dialogue are extremely fast at times, and your
appreciation may be lessened because you didn't hear what he, or she, said. But even if you didn't catch it, the way it is set up, you know what it related to..... directing a play, specially one so well known, and make these things SO CLEAR, is not easy, and is a great achievement.
A must see piece of work.
4 1/2 GIBLOONS
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