Books and Movies Reviews

Kenneth Branagh and Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing is perhaps William Shakespeare’s most depressing comedy. Although it is ultimately uplifting, throughout the play there are themes that are also prevalent in such devastating tragedies as Romeo and Juliet and Othello. Trickery, deceit, and death are woven throughout this smartly written comedy; these themes stray from the typical heartening tone used in the rest of his light comedies. Kenneth Branagh took advantage of his artistic license as a director, through integrating concepts of resolution and optimism throughout the movie. Without any physical theatrical elements, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is not an entirely lighthearted play. Branagh exercised his right as a creator when he diminished the heavier elements to appease his modern audience. In his film, Branagh softened Shakespeare’s overtones of darkness by editing text and weakening the power of the antagonist, Don John.
The antagonist of any story should be able to live up to his title – that is, he should be the catalyst for all major conflicts. In this case, the characters of Don John the Bastard and his followers – namely Conrade and Borachio, establish the unpleasant themes throughout Much Ado About Nothing, but not as thoroughly as the script suggests. Shakespeare’s text provides all that is necessary to portray these characters as the miserable troublemakers they are, but Branagh’s film does not delve into their complexities. In fact, the film ignored much of the evil from Don John and his crowd. Don John is not a man of many words, as he states in his introduction, so the few lines he does have become more important. Branagh chose to replace a large portion of the dialogue with action in the film. While this decision added dramatic effect and shortened lengthy scenes, it directly prevented further character development for the villains. Although the dialogue between Don John and his conspirators was mostly expository, lines that wou…

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