Romeo & Juliet

UK / ITA 1968
Director : Franco Zeffirelli
Cast : Masolino D'Amico, Leonard Whiting, Bruce Robinson, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery

138 Min. | OmU | Original with german Subtitles

Retrospective

A film that mirrors the time it was made in, even though its renaissance costumes and the opulent sets point much further into the past. Franco Zeffirelli plays with the possibilities of cinema to create a world that Shakespeare could only put into words. But even the first big clash of the houses Capulet and Montague has a ferocity and severity that goes much further than it was written. The explosive atmosphere in 1968, the year of the film’s premiere, in Paris, Chicago, Berlin and Prague seems to have been foretold in the movie’s street fights in Verona. Something is brewing among the youth there, but they fight each other and not authority. Even the love between Romeo and Juliet is acted out by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in a raw, wild and destructive way. Only Romeo’s friend Benvolio does not quite fit into this portrait of an untenable generation that faces disaster head-on. Which is why Bruce Robinson remains an outsider in his cinematic debut and delivers a welcome counterbalance to the film’s exaltations, because his Benvolio hints at a darker, more complex drama.

This of all works of literature eternizes the ardor of young love and youth‘s aggressive spirit. Anthony Burgess

This film might actually be best known for featuring the exquisite young Bruce Robinson as Benvolio, who went on to write and direct »Withnail & I« and also to reveal that during this film he endured Uncle Monty-type attentions from Zeffirelli himself.
The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw