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A comparison of two film versions of "Romeo and Juliet" from Zefirelli and Luhrmann

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Introduction

A comparison of two film versions of "Romeo and Juliet" from Zefirelli and Luhrmann I will be comparing two versions of "Romeo and Juliet" for my coursework. These versions are two different directors showing commitment to Shakespeare, but in very different ways. The only things that these films really have in common is that they have different resources than Shakespeare had, as the Shakespearean plays would have been played on stage with very minimal resources, whereas the films can use various effects, such as computer enhancement and camera tricks to try to create a more "realistic" view. Even such things as camera angles and the timing of shots can make all the difference. Zefirelli goes about putting "Romeo and Juliet" into film format by taking the audience back to old time Verona. Luhrmann, however, brings "Romeo and Juliet" up to modern day. I will be investigating the similarities and contrasts between these two versions. The words of the prologue are not altered in either of the versions, but of course the way in which they are said differ from each other. The Zefirelli prologue is spoken with a camera panning over how you would imagine Verona in the 1600's to look. The shot makes Verona look very beautiful and attracts attention to the words spoken. It appears we, the audience have gone back in time to where and when the play was actually set. ...read more.

Middle

A western style piece of music is also played, and the actors use their weapons as if the were cowboys. In Zefirelli's version of the scene where Romeo is introduced, he is walking up a dull road, alone, and holding a flower. He is alone so that he is the only thing that the audience can focus on and this is also why the road is dull. The fact that he is holding a flower shows Romeo as distinct from the violence, this shows the audience that Romeo is unique, unlike the other males in the film. When we see Romeo emerging up the road the mood changes, because of the use of music, and that the characters get excited to see Romeo, the music is changed to a more uplifting style, although Romeo is actually depressed, his presence lightens the mood. In the Luhrmann version, when we first meet Romeo, he appears framed by a big arch and there is a sunset in his background, showing him as a silhouette, which makes him appear almost angelic. An arch frames him so your attention is focussed on him. He is alone so that there is nothing else to focus on. The music use when Romeo is introduced is not a happy piece, it is a slow piece and we can see from this that Romeo is depressed, and when the cut away is used to take us closer to Romeo, by his facial expression we can confirm that he is troubled. ...read more.

Conclusion

Luhrmann's version of the balcony scene is quite different. Juliet is on the ground unaware of Romeo being behind her. Luhrmann still uses continuous cutaways to different camera angles to keep attention. Juliet is wearing a white dress to symbolise purity and water is again used as they both fall into the swimming pool, to enhance the pure and clean image of both of the characters. I think that Zefirelli's version of "Romeo and Juliet" stays much more accurately to the storyline and is therefore better to watch if you want to learn about the play, and are not watching it for entertainment. Luhrmann's film is better to watch if you are looking for an interesting action film to keep you entertained. It is possible to pick up the basic premise of "Romeo and Juliet," but it would be difficult to modernise the play without changing some of the text, so the true form of "Romeo and Juliet" cannot be completely appreciated. I admire both directors, especially Luhrmann who has taken on the text of "Romeo and Juliet" and has made a film of it that will keep teenagers interested in Shakespeare's work. It is better to modernise Shakespeare's work than to allow teenagers not to appreciate his work altogether. In a way, I feel that he has worked harder to get to the end of the play because the presentation is unique and deserves appreciation. ...read more.

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