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Film / Romeo and Juliet (1968)

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Romeo and Juliet is a 1968 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

It stars Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet, and was the first major production to cast actual teenagers in the roles.

The supporting cast included Michael York as Tybalt. Laurence Olivier giving the opening and closing narration, and also dubbed the voice of the Italian actor who played Lord Montague.

The film gained a measure of infamy at the time for featuring teen-aged Romeo and Juliet partially naked during a scene (the urban legend that Hussey was refused entry into the film because she wasn't old enough is almost certainly false).

It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for cinematography and costume design. Compare the 1936 version, Romeo and Juliet, and the 1996 version, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.

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This film contains examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation: Despite being set (and filmed in) Italy, the majority of characters speak with English RP accents - the Capulets all speaking much posher than the Montagues. The Nurse as a servant is given a light cockney accent, while Friar Lawrence is given an Irish one.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film adds extra scenes not in the text.
    • At the masquerade, a Capulet singer called Leonardo sings a song called "What is a Youth", which segues into the lovers' first lines together.
    • Before he leaves Verona, Romeo is seen bidding goodbye to Benvolio.
    • Juliet's first funeral is shown, and Balthasar witnesses the burial.
    • The ending adds in a funeral scene for Romeo and Juliet, showing the reactions of characters like Lady Capulet, Benvolio, the Nurse and Balthasar.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Rosaline is not mentioned in Benvolio and Romeo's first scene, and most of the dialogue relating to her is cut. This makes it look like the Montagues decide to crash the masquerade ball for no particular reason. Although a scene where Romeo finds Rosaline's name on the guest list was filmed, so presumably she did feature originally (the credits contain a listing of Paola Tedesco as 'Rosalina').
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Tybalt has a look of horror on his face when he realizes he stabbed Mercutio, suggesting that he never intended to hurt anyone. In the play, he stabs Mercutio with a cheap shot.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the play, Mercutio merely mocks the Nurse. Here, he grabs onto her dress and spins her around, mocking her as she falls.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Nurse comforts Benvolio this way in the end scene.
  • Age Lift:
    • Juliet is subtly aged up to be played by a sixteen-year-old actress (though dialogue about her being nearly thirteen was kept).
    • The Nurse if compared to other adaptations, which cast older grandmotherly women. Pat Heywood was only 36, though that's actually the correct age for the character in the original text.
  • All Part of the Show: Everyone thinks at first that Mercutio, the local Sad Clown, is joking around after being injured by Tybalt; it is only when they check on him they realize that his injuries are fatal.
  • Blah Blah Blah: A scene starts with Mercutio saying "Blah blah blah" instead of engaging with the conversation Benvolio's trying to have with him.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Male example. Mercutio (blond), Benvolio (brunet) and Romeo as light brown substituting redhead.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Capulets wear red and the Montagues blue (or sometimes green), and the Prince's family wear somber, dark browns.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: The Prince wears deep purple, setting him apart from the blue Montagues and red Capulets.
  • Costume Porn: The Renaissance costumes are absolutely breathtaking and absolutely period-accurate, with hundreds of yards of elaborately pleated cotton velvet on the women and raunchy, colourful tights and codpieces on the men. It deservedly won an Oscar for Best Costume Design.
  • Crying Wolf: Mercutio is a melodramatic jokester, so when he gets into a mock fight with Tybalt and screamed that he is dying, while making witticisms about his injury, all of his friends laugh at him. He is, in fact, dying.
  • Decomposite Character: The Prince doesn't say the "for never was a story of more woe" line in the end, which is given to the narrator.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: After she sends the Nurse out so she can talk to Juliet about an arranged marriage, Lady Capulet realizes that she doesn't really know how to talk to her and calls the Nurse back.
  • Fanservice: Romeo is shown fully nude after nuptials with Juliet, and the latter has a brief glimpse of her nipples in the same scene.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: A tolling bell ushers in the dead lovers' bodies in the final scene.
  • Gag Haircut: At one point during his duel with Mercutio, Tybalt cuts a chunk of his hair with a sword and draws laughter from the onlookers.
  • Gendered Insult: After Romeo is sobbing over being exiled from Verona and then grabs a dagger to kill himself, Friar Lawrence slaps him down, rebuking him for "womanish" tears, saying he needs to act like the man he is.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Friar Lawrence has a desk covered in quite a few interesting-looking (and impractical) retorts and bottles, shown prominently during the scene where he is giving Juliet the sleeping potion. The shots of Juliet from Lawrence's P.O.V. make a point of showing her surrounded on all sides by the Italian Renaissance-era style glassware. Interestingly one of the items is a very anachronistic modern Erlenmeyer flask filled with blue liquid.
  • Improvised Weapon: Mercutio and Tybalt briefly fight with farm tools.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Both Romeo and Juliet cry this way.
  • Insert Cameo: During the Sword Fight, when Mercutio throws a sword at Tybalt's feet, Mercutio's shadow is actually Franco Zeffirelli's shadow standing in for him because John McEnery was sick that day (according to Michael York's autobiography).
  • Irish Priest: Friar Lawrence is given an Irish accent, the only character with such an accent in the film. He's actually played by Irish actor Milo O'Shea.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Juliet is introduced with her hair braided and wears it so for the masquerade. The first time we see it down is for the balcony scene.
  • Maid and Maiden: Juliet is the maiden and her nurse is the old maid who is her caretaker and confidante.
  • Manly Tears: Benvolio in an added scene where he says goodbye to Romeo after the latter is banished.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Juliet in the bedroom scene, although she does give the audience a brief flash of her nipples when she gets up to change.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: Mercutio's death is played as this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tybalt looks shocked when he actually kills Mercutio.
  • Nice Hat: Lady Capulet is never seen without a fancy headdress on.
  • Nouveau Riche: This is how the Capulets (Juliet's family) are depicted, reflected in their stylistic choices. The Capulets and their retainers are dressed in loud, bright colors, while the Montagues (the older and more respected family of Romeo) favor more conservative clothing hues.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film removes large chunks of dialogue from key scenes to better get across the passion and intensity of the moment (more dialogue works better in theatre rather than film) - including most of the lines after the two lovers die. Paris's death in the tomb was also cut to better serve the running time.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Olivia Hussey as Juliet has waist-length hair.
  • Sad Clown: Mercutio.
  • Silence Is Golden: The ending has very little in the way of dialogue compared to the original text's ending.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Paris' death is omitted. It was filmed but cut from the final piece.
    • This adaptation leaves out Lady Montague's Death by Despair and lets her mourn Romeo's death with her husband in the final scene.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: The film makes a point of underscoring this on behalf of Olivia Hussey's Juliet. When she and Romeo first meet, we get a mind blowing close-up shot of Hussey's bright grey eyes.
  • Widow's Weeds:
    • Juliet's mother wears a black veil during Juliet's staged funeral.
    • In the final scene, all the Capulets and Montagues alike wear black during the real joint funeral of the two lovers.

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