Friday, 11 June 2010
Romeo & Juliet
“For never was a story of more woe. Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”
Arguably the greatest love story ever told; the tragic lives of Romeo and Juliet are famous across the world. I don’t need to explain the story as everybody knows it.
The movie version I will discuss in this review is the 1996 Romeo + Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles.
Romeo + Juliet was originally written sometime in the mid 16th century by William Shakespeare however this version is set in modern times in the fictional town of Verona Beach, Florida. Despite the new setting the story is not interfered with too much which greatly surprised me.
Luhrmann and his screenplay writers must have gone to great trouble to ensure Shakespeare’s original play was recreated as faithfully as possible. Obviously some changes had to be made but I feel they added a modern appeal to the movie that others lack. Some of the changes are obvious; Instead of swords and bucklers the characters carry guns. Instead of riding horses they drive cars. The film is heavily stylised and visually very impressive. The music is stunning and really helps bring the story to life.
One of the most surprising aspects of the movie for me is the dialogue. To my mind it would be common sense that since the entire setting of the story was moved forward a few hundred years surely the dialogue would be modern too? Not a bit of it. Shakespeare’s words remain in the movie and although they are alerted at times they have largely remained faithful. It takes a bit of getting used to but it really does work very well and is worth persevering with.
The acting is fantastic, DiCaprio and Danes are very convincing as the star crossed lovers and really seemed to put everything into their performances. The supporting roles are just as good with convincing and emotive performances from John Leguizamo as the hot blooded Tybalt, Harold Perrineau as the facetious, fun loving Mercutio, British legend Pete Postlethwaite as Father Lawrence and Paul Sorvino as Fulgencio Capulet.
It is also rare for a romance story as it has elements for both a male and female audience. Not only is it a story of love and passion but it also covers the darker side of love; hate, jealousy and deceit. The confrontations between the Montagues and Capulets are truly electrifying. There is also a good amount of humour, one of my favourite scenes being the opening confrontation between the Montague and Capulet families at a gas station.
Some aspects from the play are left out of the film such as the death of Paris and Lady Montague and Juliet not trusting Father Lawrence not to poison her but I do not feel these were central points in the story as a whole anyway.
I bought a copy of Romeo and Juliet from a bookshop in Verona itself as I felt that would be special. I am a romantic sort really although I am aware the story is a work of fiction and didn’t truly happen (at least not the way Shakespeare wrote about)
I had never actually sat down and read the book before; I never studied it in school although I knew what the story was about.
The story is a masterpiece and should be taught in every school. Because it was written by Shakespeare to be performed on stage by actors it would not necessarily be easy for someone who hadn’t seen it in play form or on television to visualise the story. Because it was written as a play there are no descriptions of background, clothing or general appearance, just words spoken by each character, basic actions (such as ‘they fight’ or ‘Romeo exits’) the rest is left to the imagination.
If I had just picked up the book without having seen the film I would probably not have enjoyed it so much. The words are beautiful and meaningful even now although they do require some translation nowadays.
The version I bought had notes inside which explained certain words and sayings which I never would have guessed (I never knew ‘French slop’ meant ‘baggy trousers’!) without the notes the full meaning of entire pages would have been lost to me.
This story is timeless and both the book and movie are well worth seeing even for grumpy blokes like me!
Final verdict 5/5 for both movie and book