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Much Ado About Nothing

Directed by Joss Whedon

USA, 2012

Cornerhouse, 16 June 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

A highly enjoyable Shakespeare adaptation and a formidable feat of film-making.

It is remarkable how much ‘world’, how much emotional hinterland, Joss Whedon and his cast are able to bring out of such a constrained space.  Of course in this he is aided no end by the swagger of Shakepeare’s language, the dialogue bristling with (in Harold Bloom’s phrase) ‘Falstaffian wit and intelligence’, the rapier-like banter between Benedick and Beatrice.  The original fencing lovers, that’s who they are: forget Tracy and Hepburn.

Beatrice is by far the most vital character, it’s pretty much her play, but Benedick does have his moments.  His argument against bachelorhood (‘the world must be peopled’) still raises a smile.  I’d disagree with Bloom about the tediousness of the Hero subplot, however.  To my mind, it’s central, and I’d characterise this as a play about the uses of deception and falsehood.  The prince deceives Beatrice and Benedick about each other to awaken love, while his bastard brother deceives Claudio about Hero out of malice.  Anyway, by the end, you’ll be more than satisfied.

Americans can do Shakespeare, and do it well.  Kenneth Branagh should take note, in fact he might well learn a thing or two.