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Explore Luhrmann's interpretation of the opening scene of 'Romeo and Juliet' and attempt some comparison with the Zeffirelli version.

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Introduction

I have been studying the prologue to 'Romeo and Juliet' written by the magnificent playwright, William Shakespeare sometime between 1594 and 1596. Still globally acknowledged, it has been restyled by many directors for both stage and screen. Shakespeare starts his play with a prologue: an introduction to a play or other piece of writing. The prologue sets the tone of the theatrical production; it outlines the action of the play and the ongoing scenes. In this case it is written as a sonnet, which occupies 14 lines. I intend to explore Luhrmann's interpretation of the opening scene of 'Romeo and Juliet' and attempt some comparison with the Zeffirelli version. Luhrmann's and Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' are perfect examples of the very different perspectives you can have of a spectacular play. I will be focusing on how film techniques in both versions help create different atmospheres. The Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, born February 12th 1923, was a designer and producer of opera, theatre and television. He was renowned for films productions of Shakespearean plays such as 'Romeo and Juliet' in which he received four awards, 'Othello' and 'Hamlet'. On the other hand, Baz Luhrmann was producing films much later and offered a new version of 'Romeo and Juliet', which sparkled as brightly as any Shakespeare play had ever done on stage. ...read more.

Middle

Luhrmann shows the audience a very crowded Verona, suggesting jeopardy, excitement and turmoil. Although Luhrmann has a modern depiction of society, like Zeffirelli, Luhrmann maintains the traditional Shakespearean language. Both directors use voice over techniques. The directors share several shots. Zeffirelli starts with a natural look in an aerial shot of Verona City as the camera pans. There is then a zoom in on the sun and the camera becomes static. We then get a long shot of the castle and then panning as the camera follows horses and carts. There are no close ups of characters, Zeffirelli's tries to make it all about his setting. Luhrmann's version is not like Zeffirelli's. The opening shots are unusual, but highly effective. Luhrmann starts off with a static long shot focusing on a TV screen in the middle of the room. The camera zooms in slowly, taking the audience along. After the prologue is read, an avalanche of images flash across the screen, going too fast even for comprehension. The spectators are introduced into fast editing, zoom shots, close ups, long shots, panning and aerial shots over the city of Verona likewise to Zeffirelli. ...read more.

Conclusion

The location of his setting brought his prologue to life. Luhrmann's frenetic editing was extremely effective because the spectators had to watch really carefully and move fast with the transitions to understand the plot of the play. Overall, I found Luhrmann's prologue more interesting. I was thrilled by Luhrman's version in which I was on the edge of my seat. I was almost overwhelmed by his fantastic prologue, which I found to be a brilliantly innovative work of sheer cinematic artistry. Luhrmann's prologue demands a lot from the audience at the opening scene. Baz Luhrmann's prologue is a highly successful appropriation of his modern style. I personally preferred Luhrmann's version because was modern and I personally could relate to it in my life and I like an action filled production. Although Zeffirelli's version is very well made and was original, it wouldn't plea to everyone because of its authentic setting. However, Luhrmann has changed enough in his version that I wouldn't blame anyone for seeing his version as a work separate from Shakespeare, yet closely related to it. Although I favour Luhrmann's version, I like Zeffirelli's beautiful interpretation of Shakespeare's enduring classic. Shakespeare's language and plot is brought to life more in the prologue by Baz Luhrmann, who combines slick camera work, a modern soundtrack and spontaneous setting to give his version a modern touch. ...read more.

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