I love Shakespeare. The prospect of a new series of his plays being made available on DVD is cause for celebration. Moreover, a live performance at Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre in London promised truly authentic artistic delights. A quiet Sunday morning to be devoted to this Romeo and Juliet was planned weeks in advance.
Alas, within moments of pressing play on my remote, I realized that I was being doubly assaulted by a theatrical director who does not understand that Shakespeare is about the words, and a film director whose youthful ambition to be in a position to shout, "Camera one, camera three, camera two," in rapid succession was finally realized.
I made it all the way through Scene I of Act 3, and gave up.
Aside from the fact that this DVD release contains Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, it offers nothing to commend itself. It is over-acted and over-gestured to the point of amateurishness. The camera, unable to sit still for the length of a sentence, changes perspective, alternates close ups with establishment shots, moves from the speaker to another and back, all with dizzying rapidity literally every few seconds.
Shakespeare's humor and sexual innuendos, more than amply provided for in the text, are accompanied by exaggerated slapstick routines and offensively gross locker room gestures that undo the genius of the poetry at every turn. The actors are so eager to make this realization of one of the greatest romantic tragedies ever penned so unique that they torture the lines to a degree that often renders their meaning unrecognizable.
When Juliet asks, Wherefore art thou Romeo?" I could not decide whether to guffaw or wail and gnash my teeth. And the entire thing was played fortississimo.
The end result is that the passion of the unhappy couple is not remotely believable, the antagonism of the two families is a parody of the Hatfields and the McCoys, and I found myself watching what seemed a bad play badly performed and badly filmed.
What could they have been thinking about?