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Choose two scenes from "Romeo and Juliet" and comment on how Zeffirelli and Luhrmann tackle them differently.

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Introduction

Choose two scenes from "Romeo and Juliet" and comment on how Zeffirelli and Luhrmann tackle them differently. In particular you should consider: Love Friendship Language Fate and rivalry "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare, written around 1598, has been shown in many different ways by separate directors. Each individual version fits the context in which it is used, changing over again the primacy of the text. While the contexts and dialogue can be changed considerably, these directors usually keep the universal themes of the play in mind - love and loyalty, language, fate, rivalry and opposites. Two such directors are Australian Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli. Luhrmann's interpretation of "Romeo and Juliet" was released in the USA in 1996, starring two already popular American actors as the leads. As well as being set in the 1990's Luhrmann's film is viewed by us as a modern audience, with all the ideas and opinions fitting this context. This can further change the whole meaning of the film, yet still contains the original themes. Act I Scene 5 of Luhrmann's interpretation of "Romeo and Juliet" fits well with the context in which it was made, yet keeps many important parts and doesn't change the primacy of the text. Luhrmann's version of "Romeo and Juliet" is set in a modern situation with guns, car chases and all the typical Hollywood-style moments that only appear in modern films. An example of this is the character Mercutio being a black, eccentric cross-dresser which was unheard of in Elizabethan England. Other, smaller aspects are changed as well, for example, the text is all kept the same but for small alterations such as the line, "These drugs are quick," which actually appears much later in the play. These can often add good points to the scene, but Luhrmann fails when he misses out an entire soliloquy by Romeo at his meeting with Juliet - the speech beginning, "O doth she teach the torches to burn bright..." ...read more.

Middle

This sonnet is another example of the strong rituals observed - Romeo and Juliet, on first meeting, bow to one another. Instead of gazing through fish tanks, the couple meet properly through eye contact and then the formal playing of words as they naturally form a sonnet. The sonnet is also a ritualised form of writing; fourteen well thought out lines are exchanged "instantly". Fate, in Zeffirelli's film, does not play as major a part as it does in Luhrmann's version. The only part where fate is really recognised is as Romeo falls in love with Juliet, Tybalt is humiliated by his uncle at the exact same moment. The two opposite characters are experiencing contrasting emotions at the same time. As fate is such a major theme in the original play, not much is really made of it in this scene which is disappointing. Tybalt is portrayed as more of an unpleasant character in Zeffirelli's film because Luhrmann appears to want the scene to be primarily a love scene but Zeffirelli realises the two passions of love and hate are featured just as often as each other in the original text. An example of this is the inclusion, only by Zeffirelli, of the line, "This, by his voice, should be a Capulet." This is utter discrimination on Tybalt's part, whereas he is portrayed in Luhrmann's scene quite sympathetically as he is slapped by his uncle. Act III Scene 1 of "Romeo and Juliet" by Baz Luhrmann is very different to the original scene in that the structure has been changed, rather messily, and the scene broken up. In this scene both Mercutio and Tybalt are killed in the modern way, with guns and flick-knives. Perhaps Luhrmann is trying to make up for the fact that their deaths were so quick and not following street brawls by cutting up and changing the continuity of the scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

Unlike Luhrmann's interpretation of Act III Scene 1, the Zeffirelli version takes place entirely in the daytime. Where Luhrmann used special effects to sequence fast moving clouds and changing weather and times of day, Zeffirelli did not have these options. No computerised effects were possible at the time his film was made. While this is not a major difference on the Shakespearean stage - the scenery on the inside roof would simply be changed to stars and moons as opposed to the sun - it outlines quite a contrast between the two films. Luhrmann's scene starts out in the middle of the day at its hottest but as events unfold the sky gets darker and the weather gets worse. Zeffirelli's version is entirely in the daytime which also takes away more of the dramatic element that is omni present in Luhrmann's. There are many similarities between Zeffirelli and Luhrmann's interpretations. For example, both include Mercutio climbing steps to die above the other characters. This is an interesting idea, probably lifted from Zeffirelli by Luhrmann when he made his later film. Certain aspects were taken better than others for each director, for example the use of the elements as visual metaphors were particularly effective and thought provoking in Luhrmann's first scene, but his Act III Scene 1 was overdramatised and as a result ineffective. Zeffirelli's film was more suited to the original dialogue and, like Luhrmann's, kept the primacy of the text. Particularly effective was the representation of fate in such a formalised manner, as would have been true to the Elizabethan audience. Although both were controversial at the times, Luhrmann prides himself on it with it printed on the video box, they were sufficiently groundbreaking for their separate audiences to understand. However, for some people Luhrmann pushed the accepted boundaries for Shakespeare slightly too far and tried to disguise it with special effects. This is why Zeffirelli made the better Shakespeare film and Luhrmann the better Hollywood box office hit. Katherine Mann ...read more.

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