In the film “Much Ado about Nothing”, the director Kenneth Branagh presents the theme of appearance and reality through important scenes and different cinematic techniques. I think Branagh wants us to realise that although something may appear better on the surface, in reality something less appealing, in the end, would mean more.
The masked ball scene is an illusion in itself and the characters of Beatrice and Benedick show illusion and reality within them. The theme is shown through these scenes and others, such as the denunciation scene. Certain cinematic techniques -costume, setting and lighting- also portray the theme.
Although the masked ball scene is supposed to be an illusion, it shows the most accuracy in the film. It deals with every aspect of the story so we can be shown the truth in every tale and the honesty of every character. Costume is used to show the theme through the masks that are supposed to hide them so well when, in reality, the masks give us an insight into their characteristics and allows comparison between characters. Claudio’s mask is a cherub, which accentuates his vulnerability, youth and innocence although he constantly puts on the faï¿½ade of being a man. The mask that Hero wears is plain white and only covers half of her face. The white reveals her innocence and sensitivity, almost weakness -it shows her for what she really is because it covers up her prettiness. Beatrice and Benedick’s masks are a contrast to Hero and Claudio’s. Beatrice has the mask of a cat but often takes it off.
The cat shows her cunning and her likeliness to pounce. When she takes her mask off, this is an example of how open and truthful her character is compared to Hero’s timid quiet character. Benedick’s mask is of a face with a huge smile and many laughter lines. This mask shows his jesting nature and that he is always laughing and joking. The wrinkles in the mask contrast with the young fresh skin of Claudio’s cherub mask. Throughout the film Beatrice and Benedick’s characters change dramatically and the characteristics of them in this scene become an illusion of their true intimate, honourable and gentle characters. Irony is also created where both masks, when shown in the film, hide the reality that their faces show. Under his sweet, smiling cherub mask, Claudio is crying and Benedick is actually hurt and upset compared to the grinning face covering his. This is a perfect example of the concept that Branagh is trying to put across, that reality is much more difficult, yet more rewarding than a dream.
Another cinematic techniques used in this scene to display the theme is that whenever the camera cuts to a different group of people, they are rushing in and out of view; laughing and dancing in and out of the shots. This effect adds to the bizarre and almost confusing truths that we discover about characters in this scene. The warm colours and flickering firelight also add to the appearance of a dream in the scene and the overall surreal atmosphere. One last point in this scene that illustrates the theme is that the scene contains the first deceptions in a film full of them. The first wicked deception takes place and a plan is made by Don Pedro to deceive Beatrice and Benedick into “a mountain of affection, the one with the other” – something he describes as a Herculean task. There are many points in the scene, which demonstrate the theme of dreams and truth. The costumes and lighting give the appearance of a beautiful fantasy, which contrasts the harsh look of reality. This brings us back to the idea that Branagh wants us to see: that although fantasy may look more appealing, the reality will be more substantial.
The theme of the film is also displayed in the final scene. Here the truth and reality of all the characters is shown and all illusions are uncovered. The most honest love is seen, the characters with genuine honour are shown and the truths to all the stories are revealed to the audience through dramatic irony. Claudio is in reality a stroppy child, frightened of being made to look a fool. When he denounces Hero, he pushes her, ruins the wedding decorations and simply throws a tantrum. Don Pedro and Leonato, originally the most admirable characters lose their honour to the audience. Benedick’s recent change of characteristics shows him to be more loyal as he stands by Hero when she is denounced when her father and her lover would not. A cinematic technique is used to illustrate this change of events, when Claudio accuses Hero at the alter. The camera shows Claudio’s face in full view with Don Pedro and Benedick over his shoulder, like elders viewing a boy. Don Pedro’s face shows conviction whilst Benedick simply looks confused. The film ands with the love stories, a final reminder of Branagh’s opinion, Claudio is forced to accept a woman without viewing her beauty and the true, intimate love of Beatrice and Benedick is exposed by love notes written to each other. This shows that being truly in love not for material reasons but for each other is, in truth more significant.
From the masked ball scene to the final scenes, the fine line between illusion and reality becomes clearer. We see the most truth about the characters and their own stories. The deceptions are all revealed and the audience can see clearly Branagh’s feelings about these changes and realisations. The fantasy may seem the best and happiest option at that moment but truth and reality end as the more rewarding.
I believe that Kenneth Branagh wants us to realise that appearances can be deceptive and although the illusions in the film may look better, nicer and appear to be a happier story, they may not last. They may not be the true happy ever after.