NZIFF Review - Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song
Rock operetta meets the trailer park in this latest ambitious retelling of the tale of Juliet and her Romeo.
Set in Verona caravan park, it's the story of Romeo and erm, Juliet and their star crossed love, a story told a million times before and which has been given a spit and polish for this Kiwi version. The music came first this time around as composers/producers Michael O’Neill and Peter van der Fluit set Shakespeare’s text to music, mixing in styles such as rap, ballad and rock.
Constantly surprising, Tim van Dammen's clearly drawn heavily from his music video directing background and the whole piece comes together with such toe-tapping gusto that it's impossible to deny. With the talent miming to other voices, the occasional misfire with the voice matching/ miming drips through, but all in all, it's an extremely enjoyable affair. Christopher Landon and Derya Parlak play the titular lovers with such aplomb that you can't help but be swept along with the story. Plus, given the fact they don't look out of place by the beach (Summer Bay Shakespeare anyone?) doesn't hinder the proceedings at all.
The music's fabulous and ramps up the style pretty high in this take on Shakespeare's 400 year old story as the glorious re-versioning plays out. Ambitious and exciting, this Romeo and Juliet is something uniquely different; constantly surprising and always inventive, the operetta has an energy which is hard to ignore. A caravan roof doubles for a balcony and a wood just outside of the camping ground provides some truly memorable scenery as the declarations of love are unveiled.
Shakespeare's text may have been remade repeatedly - but this Kiwi view of it shows off a clever twist on the stuffy text - it's a music video rock operetta with a high dose of energy and directing gusto.
Interview with Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song director Tim van Dammen
Tell us about Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song
The film is a trash-opera adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is the original text but sung or rapped. Its set in a run down trailer park and Romeo and Juliet are played by a couple of NZ’s top models. I don’t think anyone will have seen anything quite like it before, at least that’s what I was going for...
What was the filming of it like?
It was great! I shot with the same crew I’ve been making music videos with for the last few years, we’re all very close so it went really well. It was like a giant film camp at the beach, we were living much like the characters in the film – even a couple of romances blossomed.
Where did you film it and was it a smooth shoot?
We shot up at Waipu Cove campground, the people up there were very accomodating so the shoot went really well. The locals invited us around to their houses for dinner, they took us shellfish gathering in the weekends and they helped us find nearby locations to film certain scenes. It was a very smooth shoot, the only small hiccup was the lead actress breaking her toe but she didn’t let it stop her.
What’s it like to be here with the film at the New Zealand International Film Festival?
It’s amazing to be able to premiere the film here in NZ and for it to screen at the Civic and at the Embassy, it’s like a dream. I used to volunteer here as an usher so now to have my film here is sort of surreal. I’d like to thank Bill Gosden and the team at the NZIFF for having me, it’s a real honour.
What’s the best reaction you’ve had to a film of yours from an audience member?
I come from and Art School background so I’m used to my work being critiqued and critised, I find it difficult to respond to complements but I do remember after the cast and crew screening a little old lady who had given some money to the project came up afterwards and thanked me, she told me that she was very proud of the film. That was both humbling and a relief. I feel a lot of pressure to do justice to the generosity of people who helped make the film possible. Other than that the best reaction I can hope for from the film is laughter at the start and tears at the end, so far its affected a lot test audiences in this manner but I guess we’ll see what happens at the premiere.
Conversely, what’s been the worst?
What’s next for you?
My team and I have a couple of projects on the go, one is another opera which I’m working on with some of NZ’s top musicians and the other is a story set in 1833 NZ about headhunters but as usual I’m always looking for interesting local scripts.