There is another film about the humanrncondition or, more specifically, thernlimitations of mortals when they presumernto meddle in one another’s business.rnMuch Ado About Nothing is, on itsrnsurface, a comedy, but it is a stern, evenrndisagreeable piece that the verse and thernglitzy Plautine repartee of Beatrice andrnBenedick make palatable. The play isrnabout eavesdropping—the “nothing” inrnthe title having been pronounced in suchrna way as to be a homonym of “noting,”rnwhich meant overhearing. KennethrnBranagh’s first and most basic decision—rnto shoot this all out of doors in a dreamlandrnItalian villa’s gardens—was simplyrnwrong. The action is urban, shadowy,rnand the piece wants a film noir look,rneven black and white, with lots of gloomrnand shadows. Even on the level of narrativernreasonableness, Dogberry and hisrnwatch make no sense in the setting intornwhich Branagh has dumped them.rnThe play is a curious work in severalrnways. For one, it seems to have been arnrewrite, a rescue of a failed or discardedrnpiece. The earlier part, about Hero andrnClaudio, is largely in verse, which is whatrnthe young Shakespeare used to do, whilernthe Beatrice and Benedick pieces, mostlyrnin smart-ass prose, may have beenrnadded later. The two stories, one of mischievousrnand the other of positivelyrnmalevolent manipulation by Don Pedrornand his bastard brother, Don John, combinernelegantly and allow for deferred payoffs,rnechoes, grace notes, and all kinds ofrnintricate intellectual business. But thernmood of the piece is gloomy indeed—rnDon John is a proto-Iago; Don Pedro is arnsmall-time version of Measure for Measure’srnDuke Vincentio. Branagh is allrnsunshine, light, decolletage, tight pants,rnpicnics, music, and dancing.rnThe dark part of the play, its flirtingsrnwith death and disaster and its assumptionsrnof vanity and venality, Branagh hasrneither ignored or failed to understand.rnAnd this is all the more regrettable becausernthese dark aspects would have betterrnserved the stylish energy of his ownrnfine performance as Benedick and EmmarnThompson’s as Beatrice. He has reasonrnto be a little nasty, and she certainlyrndoes, but it’s hard to remember this inrnthe distracting dazzle of this candy-boxrnmise en scene.rnFor these two performances, and onernor two other competently played bitrnparts, the film is worth seeing, but onernought not have elevated expectations.rnBranagh’s announced operating principlernis warning enough. As he said inrnseveral interviews, “Much Ado meansrnthat a grateful teacher will be able to sayrnto the kids, ‘Here are girls with cleavagesrnand boys with tight trousers. You willrnnow shut up for an hour and pay attention.'”rnYou will also be assigned to read thernplay and see how much is omitted. As,rnfor instance, in the following passage,rnfrom Act V, Scene 1. All the missing materialrnis in brackets:rnAntonio: If you go on thus, yournwill kill yourself;rn[And ’tis not wisdom thus to secrnond griefrnAgainst yourself.]rnLeonato: [I pray thee, cease thyrncounsel,rnWhich falls into mine ears asrnprofitlessrnAs water in a sieve: give not merncounsel;rnNor let no comforter delightrnmine earrnBut such a one whose wrongsrndo suit with mine.]rnBring me a father that so lovedrnhis child,rnWhose joy of her is overwhelm’drnlike mine.rnAnd bid him speak of patience;rn[Measure his woe the length andrnbreadth of mine,rnAnd let it answer every strain forrnstrain.rnAs thus for thus, and such a griefrnfor such.rnIn every lineament, branch, shape,rnand form.rnIf such a one will smile and strokernhis beard.rnBid sorrow wag, cry “hem!” whenrnhe should groan,rnPatch grief with proverbs, makernmisfortune drunkrnWith candlewasters, bring him yetrnto me.rnAnd I of him will gather patience.]rnBut there is no such man: for,rnbrother, menrnCan counsel and speak comfort tornthat griefrnWhich they themselves not feel;rnbut, tasting it.rnTheir counsel turns to passion,rn[which beforernWould give preceptial medicinernto rage.rnFetter strong madness in a silkenrnthread.rnCharm ache with air, and agonyrnwith words….]rnLIBERAL ARTSrnSHIPPING EM BACKrn”Illegal aliens get marching orders,” reported the European last summer. Recent agreementsrnbetween Poland and Romania and between Germany and Poland provide for thernrepatriation of illegal Romanian and Polish immigrants, respectively. (It is estimatedrnthat some 30,000 Romanians illegally entered Poland last year.) Poland has alsornsigned deportation accords with Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia in an effortrnto stem the tide of illegal immigration.rnNOVEMBER 1993/49rnrnrn