When the now famous “star crossed lovers” of two feuding families meet, forbidden love ensues.
This was the first adaptation of Romeo and Juliet (review) I’ve ever watched, the classic Franco Zeffirelli film with the Henry Mancini theme. We watched it in school after studying the play and despite enjoying the 1996 adaptation as well (that review will go live tomorrow), this is still my favourite adaptation, I guess because it’s such a classic and because Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were perfect here.
One of the things I love the most about this adaptation is how it was filmed in Italy. For some reason I thought they actually filmed in Verona, but given how it’s such a cosmopolitan city and a hub for travel, I can imagine it might be difficult even back then to film there. So it made sense that they went around to various towns in the country with its preserved medieval structures to film. For example Gubbio, a small town in Umbria; I visited the town when I was in Italy the last time and it’s a gorgeous town with lots of stone paths going up the hill. So it was pretty funny to know that they filmed here. The other locations they used were just as stunning, such as the churches used and other piazzas.
As for the production itself, it’s obviously pretty large-scale, enough to include full-on fight sequences (I mean, that opening sequence alone with the chaos and the Capulet and Montague men fighting). I could’ve lived without the tights being one colour for one leg and another colour on the other; I remember watching it the first time and wondering why the tights weren’t mono-coloured and the thought remains even today, lol. The delivery of the dialogue is quite classic, if that makes sense, from what you’d see from films in this period. It feels very theatre, and yet at the same time they try to incorporate humour and action and a sense of regularity in its delivery.
The cast itself was solid as was the interpretation of the story. Again, the main stars were perfect for the roles, Leonard Whiting certainly had the dreamer’s quality to his Romeo (omg what a dork was he during the balcony sequence? I couldn’t help but chuckle) and Olivia Hussey had that youthfulness and wonder to her Juliet (as an aside, ick, Zeffirelli, man, what the hell is up with the uber tight night gown in the balcony scene? And let’s not even go there with the morning after scene =S However legal she was). But their scenes together nonetheless were wonderful in the excitement and youthfulness. By the way, oh man, Leonard Whiting’s rendition of Romeo really confirmed my thoughts on the character, how easy he despairs and broke down after the death of Mercutio and his killing of Tybalt. But Juliet’s scene with the Friar Lawrence after her sad conversation with the Nurse hammers home just how young Juliet still is but also how devoted she was to Romeo.
Moving along, Harold Perrineau was memorable in the 1996 adapation as famboyant Mercutio, but rewatching this now John McEnery was actually pretty hilarious too with his interpretation of Mercutio. The Nurse was also pretty great in her own way–a little irritating at times, but her delivery at other times were pretty great. I also thought it was an interesting choice to have Lord and Lady Capulet having marital problems.
Overall this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is pretty solid. The final scenes were truncated and shifted considerably but otherwise the interpretation and the use of the Italian towns and countryside were wonderful. Still my favourite adaptation of the play.