A West Side Story is an adaptation of the play Romeo and Juliet that is set in the late 1950s in the New York City borough, the Bronx. The details that help to establish this setting are the scenery, characters, and technology. The scenery shows many skyscrapers and a rough street which shows that is New York City, the Bronx to be specific. The characters also help set the place by the way that they act and talk with New York slang. The characters and the technology help set the time by displaying characteristics of the 1950s. The technology is far less advanced, such as the weapons that are deciding on for the rumble. They are talking about using rocks, cans, and other things of that nature, and while those are still used in rumbles, now it is more common for the use of guns to be employed. The characters clothes also reflect the time period because most of them are wearing leather jackets, a common article of clothing from that time.
The plot of A West Side Story follows along the same basic plot of Romeo and Juliet, but many scenes are omitted or altered but there are a few that are clearly much more important than others. Maria and Tony are never truly married, but they do feel that they are in love with each other. When Maria first hears that Tony killed Bernardo, she is angered at him when he shows up at her window, as opposed to her immediately feeling more upset that Tony will be banished. Chino, who is the closest parallel to Paris, seeks out to kill Romeo because he hears of their love for each other, whereas in Romeo and Juliet, Paris does not even know of the love between the two main characters. This leads to a few other glaring differences in the final scenes. The first is that the message is supposed to be delivered to Tony by Anita, not a Friar John parallel, but that message never reaches him because of Jets, not a plague or epidemic. Then, Tony seeks death from a character instead of poison, and he is killed by Chino, and Juliet does not end up killing herself. Some of these alterations are almost the exact opposite of the occurrences in Romeo and Juliet, such as the reversal of deaths between Chino and Tony and Romeo and Paris. I think that these changes were made because some of them were necessary to the matching of the different setting, but also to show that perhaps, in the case of Juliet not committing suicide, a few extra years of age help you to make decisions not as rash.
The themes of Romeo and Juliet are that sometimes nothing can get between those who love each other and that bloodshed and hate only begets bloodshed and hate, and I think that the makers of this film quite effectively employed the authors symbols to convey these themes. The filmmakers use of Maria and Tony singing in the song Tonight are similar to Shakespeares use of symbolism for when Romeo talks of how Juliets beauty is like that of the sun and when Juliet speaks of not swearing on the ever-changing moon because they both talk of how certain aspects of times in the day and evening day hold certain importance and of how much the other person means to them. The symbols that the filmmakers introduce are that differing races could be substituted for the quarreling families because they both have grudges with each other over something that is nearly pointless and blood is shed because of the feuds.
I think the scenes that summed up these themes most effectively were the scene where everyone is singing Tonight and the rumble occurs and the final scene when Tony is killed by Chino. In these scenes, the lighting is dark in a foreshadowing way because although the Tonight part of the rumble scene has a happy undertone, both of these scenes end up in sorrow and tragedy. The setting of these scenes and tragic events both occur in the confines of steel cages which symbolizes that they are trapped in a gang war that is occurring because of race. The camera shots in the rumble scene are quick and flash between multiple people to display that everything is happening too fast for these boys top process thoughts, and in the final scene, the camera gradually distances itself farther and farther away from the characters at the end, which shows Gods point-of-view as a way to show that maybe God helped intervene in the ending of the feud. Finally, the actors in these scenes are angry and abrasive to others, and this shows that when loved ones are lost, these young characters turn to outward rage instead of inward calming.
The music was a high point in the film, and I think that the filmmakers exhibited excellent use of musical score in this movie because they matched the tempo and lyrics to the way that the characters should be feeling. In happy or joking scenes, such as the song about Officer Krupke, an upbeat tempo was used to show that the characters were not tense or nervous about what happened or what they thought was going to occur next. Yet, in scenes that were sad and gloomy, slow or suspenseful music was used to show how everything slows down when you are sad because you cant even focus on what is happening around but only on your sadness. Personally, I liked A West Side Story more than Romeo and Juliet because I thought there were far more displays of obvious humor and entertainment than Romeo and Juliet. Some of the scenes that the filmmakers added, such as the songs about Puerto Rico and Officer Krupke, show humor, unbridled enthusiasm, and fun that are never presented to the audience in Romeo and Juliet.