I recently rewatched the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet when I was in the mood for some Shakespeare. It was the first Shakespeare story I was introduced to, back in the seventh grade, when my school showed it over two afternoons in the auditorium. My memories of that experience are still very strong, mostly because I must have bawled for at least an hour after it ended and my mom picked me up with my best friend. I still remember sitting in the car crying and crying.
I love this movie. Everything about it is note perfect for me. The casting, the gorgeous score by Nino Rota (I really love that music!), the scenery, the costumes. I’m the first to admit romances aren’t normally high on my list, but if I’m going to watch one, I’ll take this one. And because it was my first exposure to Shakespeare, it has always held a special spot in my heart for me.It really struck me on this viewing how the story only works because the protagonists are teenagers. They are such typical teenagers: instantly passionate over something, instantly angsty, instantly drastic, instantly woe-is-me-it’s-the-end-of-the-world the minute something goes wrong. I think I had to get old enough to be around teenagers and witness this behavior to appreciate this about the play.
Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey are perfect. She is so beautiful. Really, they’re both beautiful people. I remember watching 1984’s The Last Days of Pompeii miniseries because she was in it. They make the perfect couple, and I always believe it when they see each other and fall in love. They sell me on it every time. And I love John McEnery as Mercutio. I remember the first time I saw Paul Bettany (in A Knight’s Tale), my first thought was of how much he reminded me of John McEnery. Not a bad thing. I’m not a particularly big Michael York fan, but he made a great Tybalt. His sword fight with Mercutio is one of the highlights of the film.
And I always feel badly for the Prince, stuck with these two unruly problem families who will not live in peace. I’d have confiscated their lands and banished the lot of them from Verona. All are punished indeed.
And I realized while watching this that there is one song I do know all the lyrics to. Shocking, I know, and probably even odder that it is the song from this film: ” What Is a Youth.”
Sadly, the 1968 Romeo and Juliet is not currently available on home video. What’s your favorite film version of the classic love story, and what do you watch when you’re “in the mood for some Shakespeare”? Sound off in the comments!
For more information on Deborah and her views on film, visit Sidewalk Crossings.