Monday, February 21, 2011

Movies to Travel by: Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

left to right: Michael Keaton (Dogberry), Robert Sean Leonard (Claudio),  Kate
Beckinsale (Hero), Keanu Reeves (Don John), Emma Thompson (Beatrice),
Kenneth Branagh (Benedick) and Denzel Washington (Don Pedro)
Thompson and Branagh
Thompson and Beckinsale lead the cast in the film's opening.
(all images: MGM)
Combining the Tuscan countryside and an Italian villa as the setting for a film adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," actor & director Kenneth Branagh brings a lively and lusty film to the big screen.

This 1993 film resets the story from Sicily and exclusively uses the Villa of Vignamaggio and its surroundings as the backdrop. The Italian garden is put to good use in several scenes including the single-shot music-filled ending that finishes with a panoramic shot of the property and mountains. Adding to the scenery is a string of stars that includes Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton and Kate Beckinsale.

The beginning moments of the movie puts the entire countryside on display starting with a painting that dissolves into a view of the actual villa and hills to the actors lazily enjoying a picnic in the vineyards leading to the men galloping along the open fields all ending with the entire cast meeting in the courtyard of the villa. The score by Patrick Doyle bookmarks the film with a rousing opening and a finale ending in song.

In between sun-kissed scenes in the gardens is the drama that is Shakespeare's play. Roger Ebert says in his three-star film review: "The story involves two sets of lovers, the first Claudio (Leonard) and Hero (Beckinsale), are destined to be almost torn apart by the treachery of others. The second, Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Thompson), are almost kept apart by the treachery of their own hearts. The plot is driven by the kinds of misunderstandings, deceptions and cruel jokes that work only in a stage comedy."

See it and you'll lust after the Tuscan countryside especially through the cheerful lens of Branagh's direction. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray editions.

The Villa of Vignamaggio is open as an agritourism attraction and known for its wines and olive oils. See the next post for more photos and info about the villa.


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