West Side Story VS Romeo and Juliet

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West Side Story VS Romeo and Juliet
Themes: Love, violence, feuds
Setting: Different place, culture, time
Techniques: Music and dance, visual special effects
Characters: some have changed, new ones are added, modernized characterisation
NOTES
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Whilst Shakespeare’s play starts around with a prologue in an Italian marketplace, the film begins with shots
establishing the working-class urban modern American setting. (Italian vs American setting).
The original play’s feud between rival noble families is updated in the film so that instead of rival families, we see
gang war. The two gangs are of different ethnic groups.
Some of the characters, the members of the Sharks gang, seen in the opening sequences of the film appear to be
Puerto Rican, as during the time, massive amounts of immigrants came to America.
The gang referred to as JETS is made up of white Americans whilst the SHARKS are made up of Puerto Rican
immigrants.
In the film, Prince Escalus is not directly present, but is represented by the police, who appear during the opening
brawl scene to break up the fighting.
The film does not show any graphic violence because in the 60’s, it was illegal to show graphic violence in a film
to teenagers, who the film was aimed at.
ROMEO is represented by the character TONY.
JULIET is represented by the character MARIA.
In the film, instead of a royal ball, Tony(ROMEO) and Maria(JULIET) attend a disco dance.
In the film, Maria and Tony come from separate ethnicities instead of rival families.
In the film, the nurse that Juliet confides in, is represented by Anita, Bernardo’s (Tybalt) girlfriend
In the film, only Tony dies, as he is killed by Chino, and Juliet survives.
There are a variety of changes between the film and the play. In the final act, Tony (Romeo) is hiding out as
he is being hunted by Chino, a Sharks gang member. When he eventually finds Maria (Juliet), he is shot and
killed by Chino. Whilst in the play both lovers commit suicide, in the film only Tony is killed. Juliet is
heartbroken by this and threatens everyone in the scene out of pure rage, and comments on how Tony’s
death was the result of the hatred and violence between the gangs. The filmmakers use a few different
techniques to enhance the final scene in which Tony is killed. It makes strong use of colour and sound to
highlight the tension and also uses music. In the scene, Juliet begins to sing at Tony’s side as he dies, but is
cut short, which has a profound meaning as songs and music are such a central element of the film.
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