Romeo & Juliet
William Shakespeare's classic love
tragedy Romeo & Juliet has been filmed so many times over the years
(and that's not even taking into consideration the thousands of stagings)
that there is very little left to add to the mix.
It was made as a silent film (in fact, it
was made as a silent at least seven times between 1907 and 1916). It
was made in Yiddish and Palestinian (and most other languages). It has
been made for theaters. It has been made for television. It has
been done as an opera. It has been done as a burlesque. It has
been done as a western. It has been the basis of a smash musical (West
Side Story). It has been political farce (Romanoff & Juliet).
It has been the basis of a kid's film (Gnomeo & Juliet). It has
been made into soft core (The Secret Love Lives of Romeo and Juliet).
It has been done in the world of breakdancing (Romeo & Julio).
It has been done as a zombie movie (Romeo & Juliet vs. the Living Dead).
It has been done with Popeye and Olive Oyl as the main characters.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, the play
has been filmed 41 times as a straight adaptation, with an additional 120 or
so films that were based on the story. That is an average of almost
one and a half versions of the story filmed per year for the last 107 years.
However, usually every generation or so
the story has even been
transformed into hyper-stylized mega-romantic wannabe blockbuster, despite
the story's rather old-fashioned sensibilities and Shakespeare's rather
dense language. The last two times it even pretty much worked: Baz
Luhrmann's hyperactively colorful 1999 version with Leonardo DiCaprio and
Claire Danes and Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 new wave take with Olivia Hussey
and Leonard Whiting.
Therefore the latest attempt at getting the star-crossed lovers some box
office love had to take it into a different direction. And to this
film's credit, they have done just that, by retreating into the text of the
Romeo & Juliet is a mostly rather faithful and old-fashioned, if
somewhat streamlined, take on the well-worn text. It is not about high
concept or dumbing down, it is mostly just a well-filmed version of a
classic play. The film deserves great kudos also for actually filming
in Verona, the Italian town which was the setting of the play, because the
film looks truly stunning.
while they may have made some concessions for the youth market – Romeo and
most of his friends look like underwear models – this Romeo & Juliet
is actually a perfectly fine adaptation of the classic work.
Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes did modify the Bard's text a bit
to make the story more palatable to a modern audience, but it is not blatant
enough to raise many eyebrows of people who are not slavishly reverent to
it is no surprise that the film did not receive a huge response when it
received its theatrical release this past October, with the video release
Romeo & Juliet will probably build upon its following. I don't
suppose it will ever become anyone's favorite telling of the story, nor will
it become anyone's favorite film. However, I'll bet that it will
become a standard in high school English classes for years to come. Or
at least until the next time someone makes Romeo & Juliet.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: February 4, 2014.