Romeo + Juliet: An E Ticket Ride


11/21/96

The new release of Romeo and Juliet is fun, fast and exciting to watch.
It is a slick cinematic rendition of Shakespeare\'s work brought to the screen
for contemporary movie-goers. There is something for everyone in this movie. A
timeless story, a dynamic cast, a hip soundtrack, great sets and costumes and
plenty of action. From the beginning the audience is told," buckle up, this
Romeo and Juliet ride is going to be like no other Shakespeare you\'ve ever
ridden." This movie supports the notion that the stage is an actor\'s medium and
the cinema is the director\'s. Romeo and Juliet is a feast for the eyes and
does a great job of engaging the audience with the story at all times through
various cinematic techniques and tricks which make understanding Shakespeare fun,
interesting, fresh and easy.
Visually dynamic, and edited with a sense of urgency, most movie-goers will
get caught up in the story and forget that they are listening to the Bard. It
is Shakespeare\'s words and text, however, the sights and sounds are as clearly,
possibly overshadowing, telling the same parallel story. One could say that
there are visually emotional subtitles throughout the movie directing the
audience to understand and engage in the most famous love story in an entirely
new way. One can argue that this version of Romeo and Juliet would be
understood even without spoken words. The camera-work tells the story as
clearly as the text. There are very few moments in this movie when the camera
stops moving. Like Oliver Stone\'s Natural Born Killers the editing is fierce
and in your face. There is little time to think as the perpetual images flash
across the screen. And it works. You become entranced and cannot wait to see
what happens next even if you are already familiar with the story. It feels new.
Like many contemporary Shakespeare productions, the text has been
slightly edited but this does nothing to dilute the story. The dialogue, for
the most part, is not delivered by master thespians, rather, we hear
contemporary film actors delivering the Bard\'s words as though this were present
day English in New York or Los Angeles. This works very well to keep the
general movie-going audience engaged in the feeling of the words even if the
actual words or their meanings are not heard or understood. Although
Shakespearean purists might find it appalling that every word is not clearly
audible, this is not the Globe. This is a movie made to be shown in the malls
of America--not the halls of a theatre. There is no need to ask your neighbor
for the meaning of the words, for their delivery within the context of the
visual imagery makes all clear.
The contemporary sets and costumes also work well to compliment the
contemporary delivery of lines. This is a modern day cosmopolitan city with
beaches, gas stations and helicopters. There are constant visual metaphors and
recognizable images used to convey meaning where there might be some confusion.
The town square is a gas station, but we understand that this is a public place
in which a private familial rivalry is occurring. The rapiers are guns, but a
duel is a duel. The two warring families, the Capulets and the Montagues are
presented as if they are two rival organized crime families. As a movie-goer,
we have seen this conflict before and do not need to question why it would be so
dangerous and extreme for the children of these families to fall in love. The
risks and challenges of this romance are obvious.
This Romeo and Juliet is successful on many levels for many reasons.
But I believe the most successful aspect of this film is that it never forgets
that it is a movie made for movie-goers. The audience feels very comfortable
with everything going on the screen for it is all familiar and easily
understandable through the interpretations of the film makers. Unlike other
productions of Romeo and Juliet which I\'ve seen, I believe the actual meanings
and ideas of Shakespeare\'s story are more easily digested in this version. This
movie knows it\'s audience well and does a great job of delivering the goods. It
should therefore come as no surprise that the majority of the audience on
opening night was young, excited and applauding at the movie\'s end.

Category: Music and Movies