Much Ado About Storytelling

The other night I watched the Joss Whedon film version of Shakespeare’s  Much Ado About Nothing, and then I watched the director commentary on the film, because that’s just how I rock a Friday night–pajamas, cuppa tea, and watching the same movie twice.

Truthfully, though, I was looking forward to watching Whedon’s commentary because, for me at least, he’s entertaining, he takes a conversational approach, and he’s funny, and that carries through the whole film.  A lot of his remarks pertain to visual storytelling, of course, but there are things of interest to me as a writer as well.

*Note: the following contains spoilers for the play.

If you watch the commentary on Much Ado, notice how Whedon talks about character motivation.  Much Ado is a tricky play, because, as Whedon says, characters are constantly lying to one another, perspectives are skewed, and their actions at times don’t make much sense at all.

For example, Whedon talks about how the character of Claudio was a challenge to portray onscreen because he’s supposed to be this fine, brave, intelligent soldier, yet he’s duped twice by the prince’s evil brother, which causes him to publicly shame and slander his bride-to-be, Hero, forcing her to fake her own death to salvage her reputation.  Did I mention there are elements in the play that don’t make a lot of sense?  Anyway, so Claudio’s basically a huge jerk until the end of the play, but Hero forgives him anyway.  Why does she do this?  And how do you present that so the audience, especially a modern audience, will buy it?

In the play, the two have no dialog of reconciliation, so Whedon added a scene in the movie where Hero silently watches from atop a hill while Claudio visits her grave.  This allows her to see his grief and remorse, and paves the way for their eventual marriage.  It’s a very short scene, no words needed, but it has a lot of storytelling impact.

And even if you don’t learn anything about character motivation from watching the commentary, I’d recommend it simply because fans of Angel (like me) will find a neat little shout-out.  Ah, Fred and Wesley.

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