Simultaneously the worst and best movie ever made
Actually one of my teachers watched every single version of Romeo and Juliet with the original text in front of him to prove that this was the worst version, but to his great dismay its the most accurate film adaptation of it, with the lines closest to the original text and most similar stage direction and relayed emotions.
He proceeded to show it to us in class.
Dude, seriously. This version is actually very accurate.
My Shakespeare professor in grad school said the same thing.
I think most Shakespeare movies are just so classy and highbrow with their gorgeous period costumes and mandatory snooty elocutionary accents that people forget how goofy this play actually is. The lines, the characters, the motivations, the babyfaced teen stars, I just… oh my god it’s all so real. I’ve heard a lot of people blast Baz Luhrmann for making such a campy adaptation and it’s just like no, you don’t understand, that was all Shakespeare.
Sometimes I wonder if the real reason it’s disliked is because it was so damn popular with teenage girls.
hey shakesankle and alltheweirdkidsinoneplace
"Sometimes I wonder if the real reason it’s disliked is because it -was so damn popular with teenage girls."
Probably since almost everything that’s popular with teenage girls is devalued and put down. I might try streaming this or something if people want to watch it?
Actually this is my favorite adaptation and I have always shown/references this in classes.
Partly because it WAS so popular with teenaged girls. Partly because I was a teenaged girl when it came out. Partly because it’s an incredibly faithful adaptation.
But mostly because it’s fucking awesome.
The thing most people forget is that Shakespeare wasn’t writing SHAKESPEARE. He was writing pop culture for mass consumption. It wasn’t highbrow. It was bawdy and the actors changed lines and joked with the audience and the plays are full of snide social commentary that would have been appreciated by the contemporary Tudor audience.
Which is exactly what Baz did with his R and J.
The beautiful thing about this adaptation is that it really shows what Shakespeare was doing. Theatre wasn’t considered an art until after Shakespeare death. The fact that we have the first folio is almost accidental;the other company members wanted to do something in his memories and paid through the nose to get all of the plays he had worked on printed (which involved scrounging up all the actors’ copies). Printing was EXPENSIVE and reserved almost exclusively for poetry and real literary art. Which plays were not.
Plays were concerts. They were media for the masses, mainly created for the groundlings (the audience members standing directly on the ground in front of the stage, who had an insane power over the actors ad playwrights because if they didn’t like something, they’d let you know it!) Royalty went to them, of course, and Shakespeare had some powerful patrons. But no one really considered it ART the way we do.
Which is why this film is so successful and important. It shows what it is and also what it does. Because this is a tragic and beautiful adaptation, even while its wild and bright and silly. It captures perfectly the twist of this play—the fact that until act 3, this was most definitely a comedy—and the raw emotion that connected not only with the groundlings but with the lords and ladies and nobles that filled the upper seats as well.
Also, the directorial decisions made in this film regarding costume, character motivations, MERCUTIO.. it’s just phenomenal.
I was an adult and a teacher when this came out and my lover and I went the opening weekend. At the end he asked what I thought. I still remember turning to him and saying, “Shakespeare would have loved it.” I stand by that. It captures the tone and energy of the play. It grabs the audience by the throat with the opener, the way it was meant to do. Theater was out of doors with no microphone and a lot of the Groundlings were drunk and often arguing. The opening lines needed to get everyone’s attention and snatch it away from conversations, and orange girls, and the incipient brawl down in front and focus it on the stage. So much of the acting in this is brilliant, and it really is extremely accurate as far as dialog and tone. In Shakespeare’s time a lot of the costumes were hand me down clothes from patrons, I. E: Contemporary (or slightly out of date) fashion. Putting it in contemporary dress makes it more like the original experience.
I loved watching the teenafers excited ahead of us, discussing the movie excitedly. I knew it would be a hit. I was glad. I was overjoyed to see so many students eager to watch it again and again. I was happy my kids were excited about a Shakespeare movie. It had people reading and discussing the plays on their own time and thinking about them.
I think it’s better to see the plays as they are instead of putting them on a high art pedestal. They are often deeply flawed (Racism, Sexism, plot holes, etc.) but also frequently beautiful, funny, dirty, and profound by turns. Some of them are a lot better than others. It’s okay to find Titus Andronicus a clunky mess. It’s okay to notice what idiots many of the characters in Romeo and Juliet are (not Mercutio, I love Mercutio, but that Friar? Romeo?). It’s okay to find some of the histories dull, and some of the comedies so light that there is noting much there. It’s okay to get a little bored with Lear. Watching the plays is a lot more fun and interesting if you take the dirty jokes along with the poetry and let yourself feel what you feel instead of what you are pressured to feel.