Much Ado About Nothing may well have been the best picture of 1993, although it was virtually ignored by the Award community. Perhaps its release during the early part of the year effected its fate to some degree, but this stunning example of adapting Shakespeare for the screen is nothing short of revelatory movie making. In the opening moments as the words of Shakespeare are scrolled in white across the black screen accompanied by period music and the glorious recitation of Emma Thompson: "Sigh no more ladies. Sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever...." director Kenneth Branagh emphasizes the words in print as well the lyric quality of the language. He bids you not forget the words. He invites you to listen to the beautiful rhythms of the language. And then the screen erupts into the lush visual landscape the director has chosen as the setting for this spectacular adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Indeed, the visual splendor of this production marries with the beautiful language and plotting of Shakespeare to produce a masterful screen rendition. Each aspect of this production compliments the next in wondrous harmony. Lushly romantic and blatantly sentimental, it is also an ebullient battle of the sexes.
Kenneth Branagh wears a multitude of hats
successfully without losing the balance of a single chapeau. He has adapted Much Ado About
Nothing for the screen and has shared the producing chores; and he directs as well as
stars in a multifaceted display of talent. The director has put together a wonderful cast
of players in bringing Shakespeare to exuberant screen realization. Bantering and
bickering opposite Branagh's Benedick is Emma Thompson, imbuing the character of Beatrice
with an alluring combination of grace and wit. Denzel Washington carries off the
supporting role of Don Pedro with panache and charm. Robert Sean Leonard carries his
innocence perfectly as Claudio and Keanu Reeves is so well cast as Don John, the
malevolent half brother of Don Pedro, it's frightening. Michael Keaton does an
astonishingly hilarious turn as a disheveled and disgusting Dogberry. Young Englishwoman
Kate Beckinsale holds her own amongst the stellar cast in the important role of Hero.
Kenneth Branagh brings out the best in all his performers from the stars of this ensemble
treat to the smallest roles confined to the background.