Imagine my surprise when I went to the cinema to see the trailer for an all new adaption of THE GREATEST. LOVE STORY. OF ALL TIME.
Romeo and Juliet is one of those works that most people get quite a young exposure to. Unlike the other Shakespeare play that people are likely to study for their Junior Cert (The Merchant of Venice) Romeo and Juliet is part of our cultural shorthand. It’s been misinterpreted and analysed over and over for nearly 400 years and for the last century has been the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays on stage and screen. Everybody knows the plot by heart even before they go in. Two kids from warring families hook up, get married then kill themselves. It’s kind of the Star Wars or Sixth Sense of Elizabethan drama, in that the twist in Romeo and Juliet is so well known that it isn’t even a twist anymore. Starting in the first act as a comedy, the sudden shocking murder that leads into the later acts was a bit of a swerve back in the day. Turning from jolly and light to dark and brooding, it’s not really a love story as much as it’s a story about how shit feuds are. The lovers in this story are the pawns in the quarrels of their parents.
Judging by the flat, airy trailer this adaption is going to take itself quite seriously and play the subject matter very straight. It won’t have the intense longing and tension of Zeffirelli’s film or the riotous over the top 90s excess of Baz Lurhmans 1996 effort. Each version has always said something about the era in which it was made. Particularly Baz Lurhman, whose best skill is portraying opulence and excess, as seen recently in the great Gatsby. Romeo + Juliet also started that explosion of late 1990s classic literature adaptions set in high school- you had O (othello) Ten things I hate about you (the Taming of the Shrew) Clueless (Emma) and cruel Intentions (dangerous liaisons) among others. A lot of these versions woefully missed the point of their source material and being loose adaptions with the original dialogue and characters changed distances them from their source material particularly with the Shakespeare adaptions. Still, hard to believe about 15 years ago the hot trend was for adapting dusty classics into teen movies.
Overall, will this be an iconic bench mark for a generation? It’s obviously following in the footsteps of Julian Fellowes beloved Abbey, but also weirdly enough in the footsteps of Taylor Swift’s hilarious fan fic version of the Romeo and Juliet tale told via her video for ‘Love Story.’ It’s a bit uncanny. The irony there being that the respective soundtracks for the 1968 and 1996 versions have gone on to become as well remembered as the films themselves
whether it was the contemporary pop of 1996 or the big, sweeping score of 1968. That was the key with those versions, I think. 1968 felt big and dangerous in it’s own way- hell, Olivia Hussey who played Juliet wasn’t even allowed into the premiere, because of the rating- a rating that was high because of her own brief topless nude scene shot when she was 14. It was edgy, man. It still it today. 1996 felt… opulent. It played up the hysteria of the feud and the tensions between gangland families and subtly, to the long standing antipathy between the Irish and Italian communities in the US and the tension between old and new moneyed families. What I’m saying is both iconic adaptions did something striking. This new one just looks.. brown. Even the freaking poster is brown.
It remains to be seen what 2013 will look, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If the flat delivery and lifeless pretty faces of the trailer are anything to go by, this won’t be anything special.
Niamh ‘Sorry I’ve been away for so long’ Keoghan