Romeo + Juliet Opening

Monday, April 5, 2010 1:25 PM By Simon



Inspired by a post here if you can call throwaway blog posts needing of inspiration. When I think of this movie, I think of the opening. Something so epic for a film that would normally be so mundane. A epileptically-edited, breathless, loud, boisterous thing of carbonated beauty, we open with the famous introductory chorus/monologue, the 'Two households, both alike in dignity' spiel, first announced by a newswoman on a very 90s TV, then in a voiceover so epically epic I felt like starting a turf war with somebody, Catholic-type letters spelling out the highlights intercut with newspaper headlines spelling out more, scenes of gang violence, family trees, flashforwards of events to come, because at this point, ladies and gentlemen, it's spoilerswhatspoilers. We then get a choir-backed cast of characters by name and relation to our young lovers, but never do we meet the two here. They don't need introduction, just applause.

According to the aforementioned link, the director did the prologue twice so as to ease the audience into Shakespeare's language.

What I really love about this, though, is that it's born not out of material, but out of notoriety. This is an opening reserved for a film literally hundreds of years in the making. One that can only be as swelling as it is because it is so familier, not despite of it. Would it have been so...as it was, had the story not been carried on as long as it was?

We don't want another playbook adaption as the excellent, hammy, endearing 1968 Zeffirelli version--we want the arthouse look, Shakespeare through the ADD-addled lens filter of MTV, the language in Hawaiian shirts, convertibles, and guns named Dagger. We want our Mercutio with dreadlocks, our poison bought in a trailer, our Prince the chief of police, the two households both alike in dignity, but only if it means both have silver-capped teeth and a penchant for heavy metal. We want the action happening on Verona Beach, wherever that is, we want them having sex without the modest camera angles. We want Juliet to be the poster girl for teen angst via ABC, and we want Romeo to be the future Jack Dawson. This opening, this trailer-friendly opening of ancient ties, says that our 90s selves want our Shakespeare with a side of LSD, and who's going to argue?

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