30 June 2005 | marcin_kukuczka
Interesting glimpse at the earliest years of silent cinema
This movie is a typical example of the cinema productions of 1910s. For today's viewer, the film serves an entirely different purpose. It's seen foremost out of curiosity about film-making in 1912, when a moving picture did not already exist for 20 years. Although it is not the first adaptation of the famous Shakespeare's drama (in 1908 ROMEO AND JULIET was filmed by J. Stuart Blackton), it is worth seeing thanks to its restored version with a new soundtrack and an intense feeling of its age.
The whole movie lets you escape to these days when viewers did not have a chance to hear the sound. In its restored version, it does not last for long (only 37 minutes) and will not bore you like, for instance, a restored 2 hour-long CLEOPATRA (1912) with Helen Gardner. However, when we are aware that it is a silent movie, it is significant to state that this film represents a different group of silent films than BEN HUR (1925) or some other movies with Greta Garbo from the 1920s. This is a film from the early silent movie era. Camera techniques are much more primitive. When you see this movie and compare it to later silent films, you will realize that there is an epoch between the two. The camera almost does not move, there are no close ups, people hauntingly move and every detail, every gesture seems to be important, which is to replace the words. Technically, it looks as if the play on a stage was filmed from one ankle. Therefore, putting all silents into one sack proves a lack of knowledge about early years of cinema.
The cast are great for that period. Juliet is played by one of the first divas of early cinema, Francesca Bertini. She was a sort of Italian Theda Bara. Gustavo Serena, a famous Italian actor, performs in the role of Romeo. Although other people were not similarly famous, there is one striking feature noticeable in them. Most of the cast are quite well built, particularly women. It is, probably, due to the preferences of the viewers of the early 20th century. Besides, the decorations are quite interesting considering the period the film was shot in, the costumes are also very good. The new soundtrack quite well fits to the scenes and does not distract the viewer as it takes place with some other restored silent films.
Except for already mentioned factors, there is one more thing typical for silent movies in this film: dated moments that make today's viewers laugh despite the fact that their purpose was entirely different. I burst into the gales of laughter when Romeo climbs the famous balcony on a ladder that Juliet pulls down to him. He has such difficulties in doing it and the camera is directed onto him for about 50 seconds. This is a minor example but it clearly shows how different we are now and how differently we watch a film. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that more than 90 years have passed since ROMEO E GIULIETTA was filmed, it is worth seeing, at least for the sake of curiosity about how different film-making used to be. 7/10!