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An examination of the way two 20th Centuary Film Directors have interpreted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

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An examination of the way two 20th Centuary Film Directors have interpreted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Many Film Directors have produced versions of Shakespeare Plays. Some have succeeded some not. This is a study of how Franco Zefferelli and Baz Luhrmann have interpreted and dealt with the problems of presenting William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to a modern audience. The language that Shakespeare wrote in is known as archaic - old. This was a huge barrier for the Directors and it is interesting how they dealt with it. Zefferelli sets his version in the 14th Centuary. With the costume and setting in this style you expect the actors to speak in 14th century English and it makes the play/film easier to understand. Luhrmann uses a lot of imagery to compliment the words. An example of this is during the Ball Scene there is a famous speech between Romeo and Juliet where Romeo pictures Juliet as a saint and himself as a pilgrim wishing to worship at her shrine. Lurhmann has set this scene as fancy dress and Juliet is depicted as an Angel whereas Romeo is a knight as in the crusades or a Knight's Templar. Many people nowadays think that Shakespeare is unimportant to modern life. They think that his work is out of date and boring. This is a huge problem to a director. BL overcame this by using very popular actors and actresses, set in a futuristic present day, with black actors in the cast and very radical imagery of gang warfare, a drug culture and relation to the inner city problems of today. It is possible that Luhrmann was alluding to the huge success of West Side Story, made in 1959, and the only musical version to date. This was street violence of rival gang with the hatred based on race. Zefferelli gets over this by using younger actors and being (for the era) ...read more.


Act 1 Scene 5 In this scene, Old Man Capulet throws a party; Mercutio (being kin to Paris) is invited and in turn invites Romeo and challenges him to find a girl. Romeo declines because he is in love with Rosaline but goes anyway. Ro meo meets Juliet, they fall in love. Tybalt sees them and swears revenge. At the end of the scene they learn to their horror who the other is. Zefferelli sets his version in the Capulets' manor as a masked ball. The costume that is worn is that of the best party clothes that they would have worn in those days. The camera work in this scene involves a lot of revolving and spinning. This is used when we see the couple together; it ties in with the idea of dizziness in love. Also used are many close ups which gives a very intimate feel. Zefferelli goes back to his spaghetti western routes in his version of this scene. When all is happy the camera is panoramic but it zooms in when bad things are about to happen. When Tybalt finds out that Romeo is a Montague the camera fills the screen with his evil eyes, focusing our attention on his anger. He says " Patience perforce with willful choler meeting Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting. I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet convert to bitterest gall." Music is also used to compliment the actions. It starts very jolly and happy during the party and slowly builds up as the couple fall in love, finally crescendo as they kiss. The opposite happens at the end of the scene when they realize who the other is. The music grows dramatic and doom laden. The acting is very good in this scene. Juliet's stage direction is that of a very young girl, Shakespeare intimates that she is about 13 and Romeo 16. ...read more.


The Director shows his talent in that there is no deviation from the original text, just the use of body language, close ups and facial expressions, and makes the whole scene far sadder than versions that stick to the original stage direction. The audience is left wishing that Romeo had arrived just a few minutes, even seconds later, and the tragedy would have had a happy ending. At the start of the scene, it is like an action movie. The camera work is fast and furious, with all the clich�s of a police chase. This action adds to the feeling of desperation and need for speed that Romeo is suffering. This camera work stops and goes to the same camera long shot as he slams the door of the chapel. The contrast from many cameras, view angles and intensity to the single view, where it is the actor not the camera that moves, is used the show the feeling of relief and achievement that Romeo has in that he has made it to the chapel. The contrast is so strong that it is almost like a computer game, where he has achieved one level and has a distinct break before the next and hardest level. Conclusion. I believe that Shakespeare, if he was alive now would have liked parts of both. The Zefferelli version is much less of a culture shock but Lurhmann's is such a twist on the classic story that he would have appreciated it in a sort of "why didn't I think of that!" way. In its time Zefferelli's version was a masterpiece, and still is, for the classical Shakespear scholar. However with the capabilities of modern television, and the understanding of modern life that the audience has, it appears dated. My personal preference is that of Lurhmann's. You as an adult may think that this is typical of a teenager, but I believe that it is because his version brings the emotions alive whereas Zefferelli's version did that in its day but does not with a modern audience. ...read more.

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