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Romeo and Juliet (1968)

“Zefirelli’s performers breathe understanding into every ornate phrase, translating the sixteenth-century prose into something fresh and modern.” – Common Sense Media

Argued by many to be one of the best Romeo and Juliet adaptations ever released, the 1968 version of the classic tale of tragedy features Franco Zeffirelli’s incredible eye and direction (if the Academy Awards aren’t proof enough of that) and stars Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as the infamous, star-crossed lovers. This Shakespearean adaptation was welcomed warmly by both young audiences and critics; praised for its cast, sets and direction; and for being an overall fantastic and exciting take on an old plot that has been redone a thousand times over.

The film follows a centuries-old story about the feud of the Montagues and the Capulets, and the two young lovers caught in the crossfire of it all. It is a story that has been told and retold over and over and over, but what makes Zefirelli’s interpretation of this tale stand out is his unique eye and impeccable ability to present the old story with a fresh perspective, through a brand new lens. This, as proven by the film’s massive success and multiple awards, was something that both viewers and critics deeply appreciated.

Zefirelli is able to show the romance on screen in a way that makes the young lovers’ innocence shine, which is, all at the same time, reflective, inspirational and relatable – something that helped the film achieve the success that it did. The setting of the story and the way it was told had the uncanny ability to catch young people’s attention ans to reflect both their rebelliousness and the struggles they faced.

There is little to be said of Zefirelli and this film save that it is a well put-together piece of art that reaches out to viewers and touches both their minds and hearts.

The 1968 version of Shakespeare’s classic old tale is my favorite film adaptation so far. It gives off a very historic and simple feeling, which is how, I feel, Shakespeare would have intended any film adaptation of his great play. It does not play around too much with the script, or change the settings and characters all too much. The 1968 Romeo and Juliet adaptation stays largely true to Shakespeare’s original text. In addition, it does a splendid job of presenting the plight of the young lovers, who aspire for love in the face of adversity and their families’ war.

Romeo and Juliet (1978)

The 1978 adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play has been said by many to bear the closest resemblance to the setting and script of the original play and dialogue. Set in Italy in the 1500’s as Shakespeare’s own Romeo and Juliet was, the BBC version of the old story about warring families and star-crossed lovers tries to depict the classic tale as closely to how Shakespeare intended it.

Released as a part of the BBC Television Shakespeare, a series of adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays, this Romeo and Juliet adaptation is well-loved by many viewers despite not being widely advertised or well-known. Under the direction of Alvin Rakoff on a budget incomparable with most other big adaptations of the prized play that have been produced by the big-money Hollywood machine, the film successfully does what it is supposed to do – and that is tell the tale of the young, titular lovers. It manages to do this impressively so, given the resources that were alloted for it.

Patrick Ryecart, who plays Romeo and Rebecca Saire, who plays Juliet (and gained much attention for being only fourteen years old at the time of production) do a well enough job of portraying the two ill-fated lovers as what they are – young victims of the heart and the feud of grown-ups.

The film is quite direct and cut-and-dried in its approach to presenting the play in the media of film. Not to say that it is uncreative and an injustice to the work of Shakespeare, the film does a good job of telling the story and presenting the dialogue in a way that is both alluring and accurate. Preferred by lovers of the original play’s setting, characters, and dialogue, it is definitely a movie worth looking into if what you’re looking for is an adaptation that sticks to the script as much as possible.

If what you are going for is authenticity, then this film version of the play is the one for you. The BBC series that features many of Shakespeare’s works does an excellent job of presenting his plays through film and of course they did not miss out on Romeo and Juliet. As far as I have seen, this film adaptation of the old play comes closest to the original script when compared with other versions. It is set in Italy in the 1500’s, just as Shakespeare intended, and it follows the story of the Capulets and Montagues as close to the T as I’ve seen.