Friday, February 18, 2011

Flashback Reviews: Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

So yeah. We have a pointless updating of Romeo and Juliet coming up with... garden gnomes. I'm still trying to get over the fact that they thought retelling that particular story with garden gnomes was actually a good idea.

So what better way to go about trying to erase how bad an idea that was than with a viewing of an adaptation of the original Shakespeare play?

No... How about what I consider to be the definitive adaptation as brought to us by Franco Zeffirelli, and the first film adaptation of the movie I have ever seen?

That is what the flashback review is for, after all. Keep in mind it's been a long time since I last saw the movie in full, but I can still remember quite a few details, so let's get started with that.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Romeo (Leonard Whiting) is a Montague, and Juliet (Olivia Hussey) is a Capulet, both warring families in fair Verona. They fall in love, however, and things get convoluted from there.

Really, do I have to give the summary? Everyone has some knowledge of the story of Romeo and Juliet, right? As I said, it's been adapted countless times, so... I'll just get to the meat of this movie.

This movie is home to some very rich Renaissance detailing. I say it's an adaptation of the original tale, because it maintains the Renaissance setting from which Shakespeare's place came out of. Some of the details may be off, but nobody can deny that it does an excellent job of setting the period, and also the location. Zifferelli still gets quite a few details down in setting his story in the Renaissance, and it's also nice that he even casts the actors properly according to their ages. (It might be a bit disturbing, but hey, people really did marry extremely young back then.)

But of course, the meat isn't in how well Zeffirelli can create his locations, but in how the actors can handle Shakespeare's rather thick lines. And on this count, the actors are able to work well within Shakespeare's lines. Sometimes the lines are rather melodramatically spoken, but they understand the rhythm of Shakespeare's poetry and are able to speak it with quite a great deal of aplomb. They can also make the meaning of the lines apparent, as their inflections on the lines are all quite effective. Shakespeare is difficult to recite due to its poetic nature, and the actors here do a great job of annunciating it, barring some moments of melodrama that, let's face it, aren't entirely their fault.

After that, everything else sort of clicks into place on its own. There is definite chemistry between Whiting and Hussey that is visible throughout every love scene they are in, the story itself is rather well-paced, the omissions made from Shakespeare's original play are done in places that would have made the movie drag, and... well...

All of this combined makes Franco Zeffirelli's rendition of Romeo and Juliet the defining film adaptation of Shakespeare's play. There's not much else to say about this movie, other than that if you want the original Shakespeare play adapted to film in the best way possible, this is the movie to go to.

And if you want an updated adaptation? Stick with West Side Story.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

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