Much Ado About Nothing
MPAA rating: PG-13.
Run time: 110 minutes.
Prince Don Pedro of Aragon, along with many of his warriors, returns from a military engagement and visits the estate of Leonato, a wealthy elder of Messina. Claudio, one of Don Pedro's companions, wishes to marry Hero, the only daughter of Leonato. Benedick, another of Don Pedro's companions resumes his longstanding "skirmish of wits" with Hero's cousin, Beatrice. Benedick and Beatrice constantly bicker as if they despise each other but it is clear that there is some attraction between them. During the week prior to the wedding of Claudio and Hero, the friends and family of Beatrice and Benedick plan to trick these two into recognizing and admitting their true love for each other.
Meanwhile, Don John, the Prince's estranged brother, plots to sabotage the wedding by arranging for Hero to be falsely accused of being intimate with another man. At the wedding ceremony, Claudio publicly accuses Hero and renounces their engagement. The Prince, Claudio and the other warriors leave, but Benedick, who is by this point openly in love with Beatrice, stays to counsel Hero and her friends and family. They believe that she has been falsely accused and devise their own plot to make Claudio see the error of his ways. They publicly announce that Hero died upon being slandered and rejected by Claudio, hoping that this will stir regret and sorrow in Claudio and that he will realize that Hero was innocent.
While all the friends and family have been deceived by this slander, Don John, the author of it all, secretly leaves Messina. His henchman are then overheard by the town watchmen as they drunkenly discuss the mischief they have just created. Brought before Leonato, his brother, Antonio, Don Pedro and Claudio, these villains confess that Hero was slandered and that the accusations against her were untrue.
Claudio begs forgiveness from Leonato for he still believes that Hero is dead and that it was his accusation and renouncement that killed her. Leonato and Antonio promise Claudio to end their revenge against him if he agrees to two conditions. First, he must hang an epitaph on Hero's tomb and publicly proclaim her innocence. Second, he must promise to wed Antonio's daughter who, they tell him, is almost an exact copy of Hero. Claudio agrees to both and mourns publicly for Hero that night.
The next day, Claudio arrives to wed Antonio's daughter and as he takes her hand in marriage it is revealed that she is actually Hero "who died but while her slander lived". All rejoice until Benedick calls for Beatrice, who he plans to marry that day. These two publicly attempt to conceal the depth of their feelings and, after a few sharp words, only then realize that they have each been tricked by their family and friends into expressing their love for the other. They immediately deny any love for each other, to the laughter of all the onlookers who know better. They are each forced to admit their love when Hero gives Benedick a letter that Beatrice has written proclaiming her love for him, and Claudio gives Beatrice a love sonnet that Benedick has written for her.
The assembly then sees that Don John has been captured and brought back after fleeing Messina. The Prince decides to deal with him the next day, and the gathering then resumes its happy mood and begins a celebration in anticipation of the weddings of Hero and Claudio, and Beatrice and Benedick.
I first saw this movie when it was released in the theater in 1993 and it immediately became one of my favorites. Everything about this movie is terrific. The story is, of course, one of the classic love stories of all time, with Benedick and Beatrice as two of the most enjoyable characters to watch in any romantic play.
The film was shot on location in Tuscany and the scenery and cinematography are beautiful. The cast is outstanding and is comprised of both European and American actors. The music is also beautiful and the soundtrack from this movie is one of my absolute favorites.
I had never seen this play before seeing this movie version and I was unfamiliar with the story. Since seeing the movie in 1993, I have been to two versions of the play. The first was performed by a high school company in Santa Maria, California in 1995 or 1996. The student-actor (who played Benedick) responsible for initiating this production acknowledged Kenneth Branagh's film as his inspiration and mirrored Branagh's direction almost exactly.
My second experience with this play was at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in August of 2000. That production was a wonderful experience in every way and their theater is breathtaking -- the backdrop for their open-air stage is Lake Tahoe at dusk!
I wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone and everyone. Even if you don't generally enjoy Shakespeare I believe that you will thoroughly enjoy this masterpiece.
Richard Briers - Leonato
Emma Thompson - Beatrice
Kenneth Branagh - Benedick
Robert Sean Leonard - Claudio
Kate Beckinsale - Hero
Denzel Washington - Don Pedro of Aragon
Keanu Reeves - Don John
Richard Clifford - Conrade
Gerard Horan - Borachio
Michael Keaton - Dogberry
Ben Elton - Verges
Jimmy Yuill - Friar Francis
Brian Blessed - Antonio
Imelda Staunton - Margaret
Phyllida Law - Ursula
Andy Hockley - George Seacole
Conrad Nelson - Hugh Oatcake
Chris Barnes - Frances Seacole
Patrick Doyle - Balthasar
Alex Lowe - Messenger
Edward Jewesbury - Sexton
& Kenneth Branagh
Robert Sean Leonard
& Kate Beckingsale
& Gerard Horan
& Ben Elton
Distributed by: The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Producers: Stephen Evans, David Parfitt & Kenneth Branagh
Original Story: William Shakespeare
Screenplay: Kenneth Branagh
Cinematographer: Roger Lanser
Editor: Andrew Marcus
Music: Patrick Boyle
Production Designer: Tim Harvey
Art Director: Martin Childs
Costume Designer: Phyllis Dalton
1994 Golden Globe Nomination - Best Film
Information gathered from numerous websites including:
Information also taken from the book "Much Ado About Nothing; Screenplay, Introduction, and Notes on the Making of the Movie" by Kenneth Branagh.