Being the self-proclaimed romantic that I am my lovelies, I think it’s pretty much a given that I LOVE Shakespeare’s immortal tragic love story: Romeo and Juliet. LOVE it. Like crazy. Seriously. You can say whatever you want about it being impractical, it was just lust that led to murder and death, yadayadayada, I don’t really care, I just am nutty about this story, in all it’s incarnations (Pyramus and Thisbe, Tristan and Isolde etc.). There’s just something stirring and intoxicating and just unforgettable about the love of these two young people forced to hide their forbidden relationship from their warring families. (Personally I’ve always been a Montague girl myself, but that’s neither here nor there lol.) And over the years I’ve read the play countless times, both in school and out and watched pretty much every Romeo and Juliet movie I could find. My ninth grade English teacher even made us memorize the prologue as we marched up and down the sidewalks outside our classroom. She then proceeded to teach us how to “dance” like they would have back in the day, you know, because teenagers aren’t self-conscious enough without having to pair off, nearly press their palms together, and stare the opposite sex in the eye whilst they try not to die of embarrassment as they waltz in circles. Sigh…
But either way, as I was saying, I’ve watched a good many Romeo and Juliet movies, but only three of them have stayed with me, for one reason or another: the 1968 Romeo and Juliet, the 1996 Romeo + Juliet, and the 2013 Romeo & Juliet. Each one is vastly different than the others, whether in design, speech, or overall effect, (not to mention the differing ways to represent the word “and”) but each of them contains something that just hits home with me and for one reason or another I find myself drawn to these dramatically different representations of the same story.
The ’68 version is the quintessential old-timey Shakespearian masterpiece, with beautiful actors with light-filled eyes, and a kind of realistic charm that just screams Romeo and Juliet. I mean really, can these two be more prefect for each other? I think not. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are just amazing together and I just love watching them fall in love onscreen with that beautiful music playing in the background and the light gleaming in their eyes (seriously, have you noticed how much their eyes are like infused with light in this version? It’s just gorgeous.) And I don’t know why but there’s just something utterly romantic about older films, they just seem more special than their newer counterparts!
That being said, I have been head-over-heels in crazy love with the 1996 version since I first saw it when I was a teenager (which probably meant it had been out for seven or eight years lol). It’s over the top Baz Luhrmann fun and drama with the beauty of Shakespeare’s language set against the gritty glamour of ’90s Miami and I love every minute of it! This movie for me IS Romeo and Juliet. The music, the acting, the craziness, everything! If Shakespeare could perform this play to modern audiences, I’m sure this would be the way he chose to do so. This film just goes all out there, it’s high-stakes drama with no apologies and no shame and THIS is what this play is all about. And I just love the juxtaposition of the dated and beautiful language with the harsh but sexy modern edge of the setting, I just think it bring the work to life in a whole new way. And hands down, this movie contains my favorite Mercutio (my favorite Shakespeare character ever) and for me, that’s saying something! (It also has my favorite lead couple, Leo and Claire are but brilliant together!) The emotion of this movie is just on-point and I still get chills when Romeo walks down the neon lit tomb to reach his believed-to-be-dead Juliet. And Kissing You…yeah like the most romantic love ballad ever!
And last, but certainly not least, I added a new version to my list of favorites a few months ago. Now you know how much I adore Downton Abbey my lovelies, so when I heard the writer of Downton was rewriting and directing this version, I was immediately sold! That being said, I was promptly disappointed and extremely pissed off when I finally got a chance to see this film. The wording was altered, the beautiful verses and phases I know from heart, uprooted and stitched back together by someone clearly more accustomed to writing for Downton viewers and that was enough for me to begin fuming for the rest of the movie. It took me a few months to calm back down and give this one another try (as I admittedly have this weird thing about watching new movies, catch me on the wrong day and I’ll hate them no matter how great they are) but once I allowed myself to watch the movie again (with the full knowledge that the words were messed up completely) I realized that the movie is unusually beautiful. Nearly every scene in this movie is just breathtakingly lovely and just serves to pull you in to the belief that this crazy story could actually happen. They leads were gorgeous, and while they were not my favorite of the Romeo’s and Juliet’s, they did a great job and I’m pleased to say I like this movie more and more every time I watch it again!
What about you my lovelies, do you have a story that you follow passionately through all it’s varying forms? Do you have a favorite Romeo and Juliet? Let me know!