This 2016 is the 400 year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and today we’ll remember the film adaptations of the most universal tragedy of literature: Romeo & Juliet, written in 1597. It’s been exactly 419 years since its first edition, and it is still as current as it was then.
The tragic history of two star-crossed lovers that can’t be together because of their families’ rivality has been adapted several times since the beggining of cinematography, actually, its first filmed version was in 1900. It was a french theatre adaptation of Roméo et Juliette, directed by Clément Maurice, of which there aren’t any copies left.
Along the XXth and XXIth Century, there’s been over 23 feature films of the famous play. Recalling William Shakespeare’s inmortal legacy, since this Sunday is lover’s day; HORSE has selected the 4 best adaptations so you can curl up in the sofa alone or accompanied; and relive the most tragic love story of all time.
1. West Side Story (1961) – Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
West Side Story is a remake of the classic tragedy, located in New York, where the two families at odds become two street gangs: the Jets, lead by Riff, and the Sharks, by Bernardo. Their hatred rises to a point where they are no longer able to have an understanding; but when Riff’s best friend, Tony, and Bernardo’s little sister, Maria, meet at a ball, nothing and no one will be able to cease their love. Maria and Tony plan to escape together, but both gangs have set a fight under the highway. Maria sends Tony to put a stop to the madness, but, before the lovers can even realize it, fatality occurs; and it will continue until the dramatic end.
Many believe this to be the best adaptation of the play until now, even if there is no mention of a Montesco or a Capuleto and it’s located thousands of miles away from Verona.
2. Romeo and Juliet (1968) – Franco Zeffirelli
This version aims to be more faithful to the original play, by following the original locations and names. It’s the first feature film to cast actors that were a similar age to the original drama. Actually, because she was 15 and he was 17, special filming permissions where needed in order to allow the actors to appear half naked on screen. This controversy was also used as a marketing strategy. Finally, for the lovers of british music, Thom Yorke claims this movie is one of the great inspirations of the alternative rock band Radiohead. (Later on, Radiohead created the “Exit Song” for Luhrmann’s Romeo + Julieta)
3. Romeo + Juliet (1996) – Baz Luhrmann
Keeping the original dialog, this feature film moves the action to the modern suburbs of Verona Beach. Baz Luhrmann masterfully makes the XVIth Century dialogs work with hawaiian shirts and goatees. It’s a must watch for the lovers of the original play, since it’s the eternally prevailing star-crossed lovers story. You need to watch it, ¡Even if only to see a young DiCaprio speaking in old English!
4. Romeo & Juliet (2013)
The most recent transformation into a movie of the shakespearian tragedy was adapted by the awarded Julian Fellowes, known for Downton Abbey, amongst others. Even though the film is extremely faithful Shakespeare’s play, the actual dialog is hardly the same as the original. This helps adapt the movie to modern viewers, since it makes it easier to understand. It stands out specially because of its costume department, very faithful to historical details of the XVIth Century, as we could expect from Fellowes just like all his other historical dramas.
This February 14th bring back the inmortal story of the star-crossed lovers doomed to be apart for ever, now you only need to choose which version you want to watch first.