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Two versions of the movie Romeo and Juliet, which was adapted from William Shakespeare's play. We watched a version directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and another by modern director Baz Luhrmann (1996).

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Introduction

English Coursework - Romeo and Juliet In class, we watched two versions of the movie Romeo and Juliet, which was adapted from William Shakespeare's play. We watched a version directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and another by modern director Baz Luhrmann (1996). In addition, we read extracts from the Romeo and Juliet script we received. Our task was to compare and contrast the prologue and opening scenes of the two movies, and give our views. The prologue of Franco Zeffirelli's version opens with a sweeping shot of the rolling hills of Verona. Gentle, soothing music is playing that fits in with the idyllic and peaceful scenery. The voiceover begins with a sombre, almost sympathetic tone of voice that fits in well with the music that plays in the background. It is easy to tell from the outset that Zeffirelli was aiming for authenticity, even going as far as to film the scenes in Verona. Timing was important in Zeffirelli's version and the line "two star-crossed lovers take their lives" is said at the same time the title of the film, "Romeo and Juliet", appears. This identifies the two star-crossed lovers as Romeo and Juliet, and in a way tells you the outcome of the story before it has even started. An important point to note is that the whole prologue is read, as this is not the case with other versions. The opening scene is set in a market town on a busy trading day. Sampson and Gregory, two servants of the Capulet house, are in the town when they clash with Abraham and another man, of the house of Montague. Both sets of men are dressed in the liveries of their respective houses, the Capulets in striking red and yellow and the Montagues in darker attire. This makes them stand out from the crowd and instantly recognisable in the chaos that follows, and also ties in with the line "Two households both alike in dignity" which is read in the prologue, as they are both dressed in elegant, rich looking clothes. ...read more.

Middle

In between the two skyscrapers is a statue of Christ, which again symbolizes the sacrifice he made. The first scene starts with the Montague boys speeding down a highway in their car. In the car are Benvolio, Sampson and Gregory. On the back of Gregory's head is a tattoo with the word Montague and three interlocking circles above it, which is a symbol that is also seen on the top of the Montague skyscraper. The shot is frozen, and the words "The Montague Boys" appear, and if it had not already been established that it was them, this confirms it. They are dressed in colourful tropical-style shirts, and this makes them easily identifiable. The car pulls into a service station, and the camera focuses on the license plate of the car. It reads "MON 005". As Benvolio steps out of the car to go to the toilet, he warns his passengers; "The quarrel is between our masters," and one replies "and us their men". This shows that they are prepared to battle for their master, and are not scared of the Capulets. As the two Montague Boys are waiting for Benvolio, the Capulet car pulls into the garage. The license plate of it reads "CAP 005". The license plates of the cars make them easy to identify. Tybalt steps out of the car, and stubs his cigar out on the ground. Just then, a group of nuns emerges from the shop, and the Montague boys begin to mock them and also their strict Catholic ways. When their mini-bus drives away, Abra, of the house of Capulet, is seen. He is angry, because the Montague boys have made fun of his Catholic religion. We learn that the Capulets are Catholic by the many times that symbols of Jesus appear on their clothing and guns. The Montague boys think that there is going to be trouble, and pull back their shirts to reveal their guns to Abra, who does the same. ...read more.

Conclusion

They wore casual clothes, had spiked hair and many of these seemingly unimportant things would appeal to a young audience as they feel they would be able to relate to them. While the story may seem 'soppy' to men, they would be drawn in by the gunfights and conflict between the two families. Luhrmann most likely aimed for a teenage audience, of both genders, while Zeffirelli was probably looking for an older, mature audience when he set out to make his. Of the two versions, I much preferred Baz Luhrmann's. Right from the start, I was interested. There was far most action, the pace was more frantic and I felt more at home watching a film based in the modern day rather than one based in Shakespearean times. I thought that Franco Zeffirelli stuck to the script too much and very little of his own work went into the movie, but rather he was realising Shakespeare's text in a very unoriginal way. Baz Luhrmann's team obviously thought long and hard as to how they would present the movie, and I think they did a very good job with it. It is an original idea and works well. There was not one moment in Franco Zeffirelli's version that was better than the same part in Luhrmann's version. My favourite part of both movies was the fighting scenes. Of the two, Baz Luhrmann's was far superior and well thought-out, and the timing was very good with the camera focusing on the faces of the Montague's and Capulet's at critical times. The Prince's entrance in Zeffirelli's version was rather disappointing as, although he had their respect and they listened attentively to him, I never fully got the impression that he had a lot of power over them. I thought that Captain Prince's entrance in Luhrmann's version was much better as we all recognise police officers as authoritative figures. Overall, I thought Baz Luhrmann's version was much better than Franco Zeffirelli's and, if the opening scene is anything to go by, I would definitely consider watching the film in its entirety. 1 Adie Laird 11D ...read more.

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