TIFF CINEMATEQUE PRESENTS: All the World’s a Screen: Shakespeare on Film: “Romeo and Juliet” (1968) ★★★★★


The appetite of death is so great that once it gets a chance to feed itself it won’t miss the opportunity to satisfy its hunger.

Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET, based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, is pure elixir of youth that seems this film has tasted. After hundreds of times of viewing it, you will realize how little you knew about this film while your eyes will continuously admire the beauty of Zeffirelli’s piece of art. Maybe this time you will notice that, perhaps, it was Shakespeare who transformed himself into the body of Zeffirelli not only to cast Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whitening as Juliette and Romeo, but to make it the way only Shakespeare could have envisioned.

The enmity and feud continues between the Capulet and Montegue house until the Montagues suffer a great loss. But that happens long after Romeo and Juliette fall for each other and tie the knot. Perhaps if the family would have found out about this union, they would have stopped their useless war for good. But if that was ever to happen, I doubt the story would have been as great as the tragedy of Romeo and Juliette.

Mercutio is the best friend of Romeo who dislikes Capulet as much as the entire Romeo’s family. During one of the ordinary days in Verona, Mercutio as usually had enough to not be able to stand on his feet, but not enough to ignore the disrespect that comes from Tybalt towards Romeo. In a hurry to teach him a lesson, Mercutio throws himself into brawls in which unfortunately he ends up losing his life. But minutes after, Romeo in great agony runs after Tybalt and takes his life to defend his own. The Prince not knowing how else to handle the tragedy, he sentences Romeo into lifetime banishment from Verona, which makes impossible for Juliette and Romeo to announce their marriage and live happily ever after.

The solution will come quickly to shorten the distance between the two lovers, but that’s not enough to bring a long-awaited happiness and peace to the family that was doomed to share the fate that will not be forgotten by many. Maybe, if not for Olivia Hussey’s innocence and the fragility and vulnerability of Leonard Whiting, ROMEO AND JULIETTE would have never be able to reach to the level when despite knowing the story by heart, you will still revisit it as many times as you can. Costumes, Nino Rota’s “A TIME FOR US”, photography and stunning cinematography still manages to transform you from your seat to Verona’s streets to witness the greatest love story ever told that puts a timeless stamp as a guidance how Shakespearean film should ever be made.

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