4 hours ago
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Film: 'MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING'
After the justifiable paring down of Shakespeare's play, the text still remains substantively the Bard's, with only minor tweaks (including a change of sex for one of the lesser roles). And it's practically all as near faultlessly delivered as one could reasonably hope for.
I can hardly believe that it's 20 years since Kenneth Branagh's starry-casted film in sumptuous, Italian period setting. (Emma Thompson magnificent) - another version with many admirable qualities.
This play is, along with Hamlet, the one of W.S.'s I've seen more times performed on stage than any other, the last time being over two decades ago with Felicity Kendal and the late Alan Bates as Beatrice and Benedict, both even by then being rather too old for their parts.
In this new film we have Amy Acker (really good) and Alexis Denisof - who's a bit of a hottie in a 'Greg Kinnear' sort of way - even sporting a beard in the early part of the film. More than one critic thought his acting was a bit stiff, but if it was it wasn't markedly so.
The play takes a violent lurch of mood half-way through. In the early part, in which the dastardly scheme of Don John to concoct a slander is devised, the prevailing atmosphere is one of comedy - and is one of Shakespeare's most adroitly handled. Then comes the wedding ceremony, at which the prospective bride is publicly denounced by the would-be groom and from then on the mood is bleak, save for the unfunny episodes of Dogberry and his henchman which, try as these actors might, comes nothing close to approaching the deft humour of the lead players earlier on. (Shakespeare's 'clowns' are rarely very comical anyway - one obvious exception being the rustics in 'Dream'.) But the the high acting level is maintained throughout the serious second half, when the mood is finally broken by the culminating scene of revelations, gasps, unlikely forgivenesses and general merry-making. But anyone who faults Shakespeare on the silliness of his many of his plays' resolutions just do not 'get' him. Of course, it's the language that matters above all, and it never fails to take my breath away, no matter how many times I hear it. So it was here.
A particular original idea, and something which could only be achieved on film, is just a brief, very few seconds glimpse of why Beatrice and Benedict turned out to be squabbling in the first place. At first I gulped at the surprise - but thinking about it, the idea actually works and is logical. Nice touch!
One of my few gripes (yet again) is the background music, though, thankfully, it's not all-pervasive in this film. If the words of Shakespeare himself cannot be trusted to signify the mood to be adopted, then whose words can?
Overall, then, very satisfying indeed - allowing me to endorse this version of 'Much Ado' with a warm................7.5