Did William Shakespeare roll over in his grave when this movie was made? Or would he applaude this moderization of his work? Would this movie by any other name smell as sweet? The setting is now Verona Beach and the movie opens with a news cast of the events of the past few days.
Tibalt's character is not only given a gun but a greased up gangster look. He is a walking oxymoron, he wears a shirt with a picture of the Virgin Mary on it but kills any Montague without a second thought. He much more opposite of Benvolio than in other movies. Benvolio tries harder to keep the peace and is more sensitive to the deaths of others. The fight scene involve a lot of different camera angles and scene flashes that add to the confusion and adrenaline of scenes that are supposed to be so intense.
Images of religious figures are prevalent thoughout the movie, not just on Tibalt's shirt.
The are frequent flashes to a statue of Jesus on the top of the Cathedral. In Juliet's room the are many statuettes and an alter for praying. The theme seems to drift away for a love written in the stars and doom for tragedy to more of a lesson for God to the two families. You almost expect at any moment for the friar to declare that "the lord works in mysterious ways".
Juliet is a strong character. She obeys her parents but never appears to truely agree with them or understand them. This is most evidence in her relationship with her mother. While Lady Capulet is portrayed to be a woman who focuses on material things, Juliet is portrayed as a girl who enjoys the simple things in life. Her costume for the party demonstrates this. As a angel she appears simple and innocent. Romeo dresses as a knight for the party. In many medevil stories knights are said to gain their stength from god and his angels. The two costumes evens seem to draw them together.
The scene where they first meet and speak in more out in the open than in Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet. They move to an elevator to complete the scene and are almost caught on several occasions. The balcony scene is replace with a pool. The young lovers hide and exchange promises of true love in the pool. This allows for the characters to be closer together and touch more often. There are many close ups of them in the pool adding to the passion of the scene.
Romeo is an even more passionate character in this movie than in Zefferelli's version. His rage over Mercutio's death not only is show at the scene of the fight with Tibalt but also as Romeo flees the police the police. In the friar's cell he more suicidal as less a wimpering boy. When Romeo returns the scene is much more dramatic than any of the other scenes in the other movies. Romeo doesn't sneak into town or yell in the streets at night or just let the girl go, he drives in and is followed by no less than three squad cars. The police follow him to the apothacary but just miss him and then they follow him the to church where Juliet lays. The scene is heavy with religious images and again we feel like the theme is not"star-crossed lovers" but an act of god. Instead of Romeo killing himself and then Juliet awaking the death sequence is more like West Side Story. The two see each other and are able to get in one last kiss before Romeo dies and then Juliet kills herself with her "dagger".