Much Ado About Nothing  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993
VHS, from the Library

You should know
I was an English major as an undergrad, and Much Ado About Nothing was one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. I read it in class and saw it on stage. I even get the Elizabethan-era dirty joke in the title. So when my mother got the movie out of the library, I was curious to see how this interpretation would work.

Well, first of all, I was very much amused at the concept of Denzel Washington and Keanu Reaves as brothers, though I suppose it’s feasible when you consider that Don Pedro and Don John are half-brothers. That’s not made clear until nearly halfway through, though; my mother didn’t pick it up until I pointed it out about a half hour in.

There was entirely too much time and camerawork spent on completely gratuitous nudity. There’s no bathing scene in the play, so several minutes of bare behinds was not really called for. At the same time, the best way to stay true to the Bard’s vision is to make a lot of money, so no doubt these scenes would have suited him just fine.

Both couples were well matched, so that both Beatrice and Benedick and Hero and Claudio looked like sets of siblings. Also, in this show, as in most of Shakespeare’s plays, the good girl (in this case, Hero) is supposed to be fair (blonde), while the bad girl (Beatrice) is supposed to be dark (brunette). It’s the other way around in the movie, which distracted me more than it probably should have. In a similar vein, Beatrice makes a speech about how only little boys do not have beards, while a beardless Claudio lurks nearby. These aren’t crucial plot points, and most people probably wouldn’t notice them, but the English major in me protested.

Check it out
Sure, it dragged at moments, but overall it was pretty good. I’m never one to recommend watching a movie instead of reading the book, but plays always make more sense if you see them. If you can’t see it performed live, this movie certainly makes for an acceptable substitution. Just be wary – I didn’t compare line-by-line, so I can’t vouch for any kind of precise fidelity to the original. It’s close enough for entertainment purposes, though.

The rest of the internet
The Wikipedia entry.
A flash cartoon of the play.

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