Home is not always a place of comfort and security. In the film adaptations of Broadway musicals West Side Story (dir. Robbins, Jerome & Wise, Robert. 1961) and Rent (dir. Columbus, Chris. 2005), the experience of home is wrought through struggle, alienation, and suffering. West Side Story takes place in the New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s, and Rent in the Lower East Side in 1989-90. West Side Story, based loosely on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, explores themes of immigration and cultural difference, and subsequent matter of resistance. Rent, by Jonathan Larson, is based on Puccini's La Boheme and follows the lives of a group of bohemians and their issues surrounding non-conformity. While the musical format gives these representations a more theatrical feel, the reality of what home was for such individuals in New York at these times is evident. In both Rent and West Side Story, the main characters experience a separation from home, and in struggling with the ‘unhomely’ circumstances they find themselves in they must learn to draw on the support network of people around them.
West Side Story depicts love in the face of cultural and racial differences, and the tragedy that ensues around this. New Yorkers alienate Puerto Rican immigrants adapting to a new way of life, most apparent in the continual conflict between the local gang, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks. The premise of this is questioned when Tony, the past Jets leader and best friend of current leader Riff, meets and instantly falls in love with Maria, the younger sister of the Sharks leader, Bernardo. The two gangs continue their aggressive antics, cumulating in an organized “rumble” that goes much farther than intended, resulting in the death of b...
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...is also creates friction when gangs are outside their designated territories, which they have claimed as a sort of home. A concept illustrating the differences between “home and the home (Wise, p. 300)” from J. Macgregor Wise in the excerpt “Home: Territory and Identity” relates “the home may a space of violence and pain; home then becomes the process of coping, comforting, stabilizing oneself” (p. 300).
Through films such as West Side Story and Rent, we understand that the notion of home is not constant. Rather than home being the physical place, it is instead the comfort derived from the select few individuals who are like-minded and supportive. Through struggles and heartbreaks, the most reliable home is the people in our lives who are closest to us.
West Side Story (dir. Robbins, Jerome & Wise, Robert. 1961)
Rent (dir. Columbus, Chris. 2005)
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