Friday, April 20, 2012

"Romeo + Juliet" (1996)

The reason “Romeo + Juliet” is my favorite film of 1996 (edging out some other really great stuff) is not because of the story, but the way it is told.

(It is a great story, of course. Shakespeare tended to tell some great ones and this is one of the more popular. Any story with the staying power that this one has must be pretty good. And it does explore some great themes—themes that have been far more eloquently discussed elsewhere. Suffice it to say that it does more than just about any other tale to expose: that hatred and prejudiced fighting is stupid. That teen-agers can be really stupid. That love can overcome and ridicule hatred. That people ought to stop and think more about everything they do.)

What makes this version so praiseworthy is the way it demonstrates the power of story and the art of hearing a story. It is always amazing to see the way a great story in the form of a great play can be presented so creatively. The text—the plot—is the same, but the context and the nuances can supply such varied meanings. The storyteller and the audience (or in the case of a play, the troop) are in a partnership. They both carry a responsibility.

Translation and interpretation are difficult and important tasks. One should approach texts with care, because reading is a part of the creative act. The danger lies in not realizing what the reader brings to the story. So many think they read the obvious intention, the true meaning. What they need to consider after, “Does the story reflect reality?” is “Does their reading reveal the same sort of truth?” If the former proves false then the story is flawed as entertaining as it may be. It is diversion and not edification. If the later is where the flaw lies then they need to consider that they may have missed the point.

A lot of people regarding a lot of stories tend to miss the point.

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