West Side Story (2021) is a film version of the popular Broadway musical. The ingenious ability of the director and composer formed a truly majestic masterpiece, which made a sensation on the tragedy of the performance and the peculiarity of the idea. This musical and theatrical work, in which the act is most closely united with music, and all melodic numbers – songs, ensembles, or instrumental moments – are not of an entertaining nature, but flow from the essence of events, arise definitely motivated, submitting to the joint musical stage dramaturgy.
The ancient tragedy of William Shakespeare was taken as the basis, that there was and is a support for a huge number of today’s love situations. The plot of the picture is built in the constant masterpiece of the English poet and passes from century to century, reinterpreted and modified by each successive contemporaries, fascinated by the distress that tells about the relationship between young people from different conflicting groups.
Despite the huge historical remoteness, they are related by a figurative issue – a tribal and racial war between people, which gives rise to incidents in the team. One of the constant writing themes, which from time immemorial initiates extraordinary awe in people, is the theme of love.
The action takes place on the New York West Side, mid-1950s. (the district of Manhattan, which is discussed in the production in the late 1950s, was resettled, and Lincoln Center was built on the site of the demolished housing), in which there were many emigrants from different countries, and completely different incidents in a similar situation were inevitable. In those days, the titles of the articles stood out with news about the showdown among the Spanish gangs and immigrants from white immigrants. On the site, which is about to be demolished, there is a battle between two gangs. Some are white American guys from difficult clans. Others are from Puerto Rico.
Once they arrived for the sake of the American dream, they began to wage a merciless war for living space. Reclaiming their place under the skyscrapers, they divided the spheres of influence. The inability to go beyond the boundaries of each gang of benevolence to their own kind could not solve the problems, but only created great difficulties for everyone. The clash between the warring groups appeared because of the wrong beliefs of each team about each other.
The protagonist Tony, a former member of the Rockets, falls in love with the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, Maria. One day at a dance party, the eyes of a young man and a girl intersect – having met, they can no longer part. Those belonging to conflicting companies fall in love with each other despite the hostility of friends and relatives.
The feelings of lovers demonstrate that skin tone or origin does not matter for true love. The girl only thinks of Tony, and the young man is so filled with flare-up feelings that he is ready to leave his enmity towards the Puerto Ricans. Circumstances, however, are formed in such a way that one cannot do without victims.
The love of two representatives of competing gangs only worsens the situation. Their love ends tragically. Wanting to start a life together, Tony and Maria dreamed about the future, and eventually became hostages to the prejudices of their families and comrades. When the novel unexpectedly ends with the death of a young man, Maria is inconsolably tormented in suffering. The girl only learned how to be in love and happy, and immediately this happiness was taken away from her.
The story once again proves that racial prejudice is meaningless and leads to baseless arbitrariness, because of which many suffer. At the cost of many lives, including the life of the main character, members of both companies understand the horror and senselessness of their enmity. The film presents the problematic social difficulties of that time, as well as elements of the daily life of squabbling gangs: fights, police raids, youth parties. The play denounced all the cruelty of the artificially erected confrontation, which made no sense, but young and quite promising people died as a result.
“West Side Story” is about love and devotion and how difficult it is to live in love in an unfriendly world. Love is the only thing that can save us all, but it does not always succeed. A war over skin tone is going nowhere. Family traditions like the principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” are not only destructive, but deadly, and retribution does not bring liberation to the avengers. Unlike Shakespeare’s tragedy, this story in the musical of Lorenz and Bernstein is not made a symbol of eternal love, but is a report on one of the social problems of a progressive society – racial hatred.