In the old days, before Blockbuster became busted, there used to be a whole section marked ‘romantic comedies’. There was however no section marked romantic tragedies. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet however is a classic romantic tragedy. And it has recently (Oct. 11th was the release), been refilmed, and then become a box office bust. Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame is responsible for the screenplay. Is the script basically faithful to the original play? Well yes. But in various ways this film does not match up with the Zeferilli classic of 1968. The acting in the 1968 version was certainly better than in this film, with the exception of Paul Giamatti’s very fine Friar Laurence in the 2013 version. Here is a little clip that gives you some sense of the earlier film, starring a radiant Olivia Hussey.
The earlier film certainly stayed true to the actual dialogue in the play, but both present the essential plot correctly. Both also were filmed in Verona, and the real joy of this new film is the cinematography in Verona and Rome and elsewhere. Here is were the filming took place…The film was shot at the grotto Sacro Speco in Subiaco; Mantua; Caprarola, Lazio; Cinecittà, Rome; and in Verona.In the 68 film there was indeed nudity in the love scene of the newly weds, which caused a big stir even though adult actors were used, but Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Juliet, was only 14 when the 2013 film was made (in the Spring of 2012), and so such scenes were not filmed in this version of the movie.
Another issue with the new film is the incessant music, which plays throughout the film, and even annoyingly during the key dialogue as well. The music for the 1968 film is much better, and won awards. Here is a clip to give you a taste of the 2013 film…
It is both disappointing, and yet also worth seeing chiefly for the visuals, and in small snatches moving. Star-crossed, ill-fated lovers they were…. and a romantic tragedy it is.