Hero and Claudio vs. Benedick and Beatrice

Is it not strange that sheeps guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?

Much Ado About Nothing, as adapted by Kenneth Branagh, places it’s tongue firmly in cheek and throws subtlety out the window. From the get go, we’re treated to an opening series of shots that are a stones throw away from being a montage of sexual arousal. From raising the flag, to the well placed shot of a horse, to when the men (to include Claudio and Benedick) arrive victorious from battle, and immediately thrust their fists in the air(if that’s not representing erections, I don’t know what is) at the sign of the lounging ladies(to include Hero and Beatrice).  We watch a multitude a naked, healthy young people happily bathe together and think,”What could possibly go wrong?” As a side note, was I the only one that noticed the women bathing in the opening scenes had bikini tan lines?

While Claudio and Hero(both actors in their twenties, though Kate Beckinsale is barely out her teens, and I suspect Robert Sean Leonard is playing younger) seem to fall into love effortlessly and embrace the momentum, their older counterparts Benedick and Beatrice( Branagh and his then real life wife Emma Thompson well into their thirties) essentially fall in love at first site as well, but fight against every impulse to admit it. Out of a jealousy, Don John does his best to create a rift between Claudio and Hero, meanwhile out of boredom, his half brother Don Pedro conspires to “set a lover’s trap” for Benedick and Beatrice.  It’s telling that matchmaker Don Pedro is played by a dashing Denzel Washington, while the anti-cupid is played by a scruffy, sullen (and as always, wooden)Keanu Reeves.  Only a passionless automation would want to break apart the innocent road Hero and Claudio are on, while an emotional and sexually powerful figure would pave the way for Beatrice and Benedick to just shut up and accept their fates.

Though outwardly, Benedict seems to be in disbelief of the yarns being spun around him concerning Beatrice, it is pretty clear that he’s pathetically hopeful that they are true. Meanwhile, Claudio outwardly rejects the lies fed to him about Hero, but quietly casts his own doubts later. It’s interesting that the couple that finds romance so easily in the beginning end up in such jeopardy, while the jaded(some would say modern) couple that fight the very idea of romantic love as the backbone of their being inevitability find their way to each other.

 

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