Monday, 16 September 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Well, the night-time storm didn't materialise, but the following day was wet and windy from breakfast time to early evening, and I didn't stir from my caravan. It became my snug weatherproof capsule for photo work, cooking lunch and dinner, and a lot of snoozing. But I didn't abandon my plan to see that film at 8.00pm at The Plough Arts Centre in nearby Great Torrington.

I should mention that 'seeing a film' in a public performance was going to be rather a novelty for me. I'm pretty certain that the last film I saw at a cinema in a town was in 1996 or thereabouts, at the then newly-opened Crawley Megaplex. It was Star Wars 1 - The Phantom Menace. I wasn't impressed with that film, which I considered juvenile, nor the experience of seeing it in a futuristic cinema. I wasn't impressed with the eye-watering cost, either. I did not go again. I continued to watch occasional films at home on TV, on VHS tapes, or latterly on DVDs, but the Megaplex had put me off going out to a public performance. I really did not feel I was missing anything important by staying away from town cinemas, whether traditional or super-modern. I relented somewhat in 2009, watching the James Bond film Quantum of Solace with Dad on the cruise ship. That was fine, as an experience, but it didn't turn me into a keen cinema-goer. So this film at the Arts Centre was going to be something of an experiment.

I wasn't disappointed. The film was Much Ado About Nothing, made in 2012 and on general release in 2013. A romantic film. I saw it was highly rated, and I had to agree that the casting was excellent, the setting (a rich man's country villa with extensive grounds) right for the plot, and the contemporary 2012 dress (and gadgets) skilfully used to bring the action and atmosphere right up-to-date. So you had handsome men in sharp suits arriving in cars, using phones, with handguns instead of rapiers. Pretty ladies in fashionable dresses and hairstyles. Maids and security men dressed as you would conjecture they would be in a top luxury hotel. If you can imagine a Mafia aristocrat welcoming other Mafia aristocrats and their friends for a weekend party, you will get the general idea. With the host aristocrat having in his care a daughter called Hero and her slightly older cousin Beatrice. And visitors Claudio and slightly older Benedick falling for these ladies and marrying them in the end - for this is a Shakespearean comedy, meaning that whatever the turmoil introduced, the ending must be happy.

Turmoil there certainly is. Another visitor tries to wreck the Hero/Claudio hitch-up by concocting false evidence to slander her with. And I have to say it is disturbing to see how easily Claudio, and indeed all the men, are persuaded that young and sweet-natured Hero is a disloyal nymphomaniac. Perhaps in Elizabethan times a woman was very vulnerable to any slur on her virtue, and any lie whatever might be believed. Shakespeare similarly makes the smooth villain Iago sling mud at Desdemona in Othello, and the Moor is just as ready to accept Iago's clever lies as fact, with tragic results. A favourite theme, then. I'd like to think that nowadays the average man would keep an open mind, ask searching questions, and require irrefutable proofs before reacting to someone's poisonous assertions about his girl. But I'm probably naïve.

The film was made in black and white, although I wasn't quite sure why, because it would have worked in colour just as well. Black and white is very suitable for dramatic lighting effects, Caravaggio-style, but this film wasn't overburdened with them. The original Shakespearean words and phrases were used, just as he wrote them, and not a transcript in modern idiom. It should have sounded odd, with all the characters in 2012 garb, but strangely it worked. Even the names and noble titles of the men were preserved, although their subtle degrees of nobility could not be conveyed through modern dress (all were in well-cut light or dark suits) and I tended to mix up who was who. I could tell only by their behaviour.

So: two pairs of lovers who encounter misunderstandings, disapproval and other obstacles before wedding bells ring. I thought 'how very Jane Austen'. Or rather, Jane Austen must surely have had Much Ado About Nothing constantly in mind when she was putting pen to paper!

And the fallout? I think that henceforth I will stop refusing invitations from my Brighton friends to see a film with them. The films they may suggest won't all be great, but they should be much better than Star Wars I - The Phantom Menace, and I ought to give them a chance.


  1. You should write spoilers for the film industry. Now I know the plot it won't be worth going to see it, not that I go to the cinema much anyhow.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. Oh really, Shirley Anne! The plots of all of Shakespeare's plays have been published for centuries, and the plot here is exactly the same, so I'm giving away nothing. Don't tell me seriously that you don't already know what happens in, let's say, MacBeth or Romeo and Juliet?


  3. Of course I do I am just pulling your leg Lucy.

    Shirley Anne x


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