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    A comparison of the two film versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Essay

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    “Romeo and Juliet” was written by William Shakespeare in 1595. During the years past, film directors have used a wide range of techniques to bring the story of the star crossed lovers to our modern stages. Franco Zeffrelli directed a version of the play in 1968 as well as Luhrmann in 97; both directors had a common goal to grasp our attention with a story of the past. Both films were set “in fair Verona” and although they follow the same story line they are both very unique using lots of different media techniques. I will compare the director’s techniques use of characterization and use of sound and visuals for impact. I will closely analyse the films presentation of Act1 scene 1.

    The directors have completely different openings to the film. Franco Zeffrelli’s all important opening shot is a medium close up zooming of the sun; this is a really important shot. Zeffrelli used the sun as his opening shot because later on in the film Romeo says that Juliet is his sun this shows comparison. Luhrmann’s version however uses the prologue as his opening shot. He does this on a TV screen. This is quite clever; he brings the stories prologue to the modern day in an interesting way of using a newsreader. This is an effective way of setting the scene.

    Both films are set in Verona but Luhrmann set his film in Verona beach- Mexico, because he wanted to follow the idea that women were less powerful and needed protecting he wanted to choose a setting were that idea still coexisted in the modern world. Zaffrelli’s Italian set of Verona has a market full of the public this creates a jolly calm mood this then “breaks to new mutiny” as the rival family’s feud speeds into a fight scene bringing with it an exiting mood.

    Luhrmann’s setting in Verona beach was opened onto a motor way with the Montague’s cruising down the interstate to the towns centre, the gas station; this is then followed up with the medium close up of the Capulet car. The next technique used is an ECU of the rival crests this shows oppositions and brings tension. This then leads to a battle, instead of using swords for this fight scene, like Franco Zaffrelli, Luhrman intelligently changes the weapons to a more modern pistol. To bring a bit of humour to the scene there is a MCU of a Montague getting hit on the head with a bag.

    Franco Zeffrelli cast Leonard Whiting for “Romeo” and Olivia Hussy for “Juliet”.

    Franco Zeffrelli described Leonard whiting as: “having a magnificent face, gentle melancholy, sweet, the kind of idealistic young man Romeo ought to be.” And that was the exact reason for his choice, he then chose Olivia hussy based on her only film

    Role “Jenny” in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” this was a brave and bold decision, he chose a near amateur to play one of the main roles, I think Zeffrelli made the right decision in doing this because she played the role as good as a professional with years of experience. Twenty eight years later Baz Luhrmann cast popular teen actor Leonardo Di Caprio as “Romeo” and the girl next door Claire Danes as “Juliet” Luhrmann’s decision, as all directors, was well thought over. The actors played the parts to the best of their ability and scored many award nominations for their performances.

    Both directors used costume to make the actors fit in with the time periods, for example in 1968 Leonard whiting would not have worn tights and a tunic around the shops. In the Zeffrelli version the costumes where based on the renascence theme, long overdone dresses and tights and a tunic however in the Luhrmann film all of the costumes where modern. Depending on which family you belonged to you would of worn either suits or a Bermuda shirt and jeans. Juliet and the women on the other hand wore long floating dresses or a posh glittering dress.

    Although the two films were set in two different time periods they both used the same Shakespearian language. I liked the language in the Zeffrelli film because it fitted with the setting and time period but I thought it was brave of Luhrmann to incorporate the old language into the new film. I did not agree with Luhrmann he had the correct cast, the correct techniques, the correct clothing but he had the wrong language from the film. Considering that the film’s target was children of my age, 14-18 years, I found it even harder to follow the story because I was trying to understand the language as well. This could have been Luhrmann’s undoing, I would have enjoyed the film a lot more if I could understand what the characters where saying.

    In any film sound, music and language play a crucial role. Music and sound adds emotion to a scene, you can’t think off jaws without the sound effects. Or Greece lightning without the music. In these to films it is no different, music and sound adds emotion. In the Zeffrelli version the music is mainly by Nino Rota an Italian composer. Zeffrelli wanted to make all of the music either calm or jolly. Luhrmann on the other hand wanted the music to be a bit more up tempo with lively music to keep us awake. He used composers and musicians such as Craig Armstrong, Nellee Hooper and Marius De Vries. Both films had the right music, but I think Zeffrelli should of used more of a variety of music maybe an exciting one for the fight scenes.

    In films their is a lot of mis-en-scene considerably more though in Luhrmann’s version. Alone in act one scene one he had to deal with fast tracking, guns, metal plated shoes, fire, cars, and characters’ movement. He used an almost comical gun sound for the showdown. A phew years earlier in the past Zeffrelli’s version had sound but hardly any sound mis-en-scene I could only spot maybe the exaggerated sound of the swords grinding against each other.

    In both films Shakespearian language was used. Luhrmann and Zeffrelli spoke of how they wanted to use Shakespearian language. Luhrmann wanted to make the visual means of bringing the sometimes obscure references to life an not just rely on the language spoken. Were as Zeffrelli wanted to use Shakespearian language because it fitted with the period he was setting his film in.

    Both films use colour to emphasise different feelings and gangs, in the Zaffrelli version colour was use a lot to distinguish gangs, the Montague’s often wore blue and silver whilst the Capulet’s wore red and gold, this was a simple yet effective way to let the audience see which person came from which gang. However in the Luhrmann version colour was not used so that it was in your face, it was discreet and occasionally obvious. But unlike Zaffrelli Luhrmann used costume styles to separate the gang’s identities so it was harder to use colour for emphasis.

    During both films icons were used, In the Zaffrelli film the

    For the duration of both of the Romeo and Juliet films, themes played a crucial role in setting “the two hours traffic of our stage”. During the Luhrmann film violence was used to portray the uncivil feud between the two families. Gang culture and division was used to emphasize again the “ancient grudge” between the two rival gangs. However in the Zaffrrelli version violence and gang culture was used to emphasise the hate and anger driving these two families apart. But in the Zaffrelli version there was a hint more romance than in Luhrmann’s confusing the audience and therefore entrancing them into the wonders of his film.

    I think both directors used a number of different techniques to successfully make the audience respond positively to their films. The Zaffrelli film used considerable amounts of violence, gang culture and romance to add fire and love to the film, the audience like me would have enjoyed the different scenes and themes. Zaffrelli’s audience would have especially liked the opening to the film using different camera angles and icons to delicately open the story of the star crossed lovers, keeping the audience hooked d with the music and then shaking them with the intense fight scene.

    Luhrmann’s film however was targeted towards teenagers so he used lots of violence and gang culture to make his film appeal to the youngsters of today. Again he used different camera shots but also used special effects and sound to create a dramatic effect on the audience. Luhrmann successfully kept the audience on edge and awake.

    I think Zaffrelli was trying to make his audience feel calm and peaceful at the very beginning of his film and then to shock them with the actors realistic fighting. Luhrmann used fire and guns to excite his audience keeping the awake and alive he successfully brought his film to audiences of the younger generation. I liked both openings to the films; I liked the calm before the storm during the Zaffrelli opening but thought it needed a bit more fighting and action, being a typical 15 year old boy,

    I liked the opening to the Luhrmann film he showed great courage using the older language whilst still using modern action and violence. Overall if I had to choose a film I would pick Baz Luhrmann’s action Romeo and Juliet.

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    A comparison of the two film versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Essay. (2017, Oct 25). Retrieved from

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