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Compare and contrast the opening scene of the Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann film versions of "Romeo and Juliet

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the opening scene of the Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann film versions of "Romeo and Juliet Both directors present their interpretation of the epic tale of love, reflecting their attitudes towards play and playwright. Luhrmann tackled the task of bringing the play up to date in 1997 and getting young people interested. Zeffirelli's love for Shakespeare's works shines through and so he has done little tampering. In fact Zeffirelli gives the film an air of nobility - like the youths' death was sad, but a fitting end. Luhrmann conveys absolute disgust with the violence and needless death. Zeffirelli's film is set in Italy imitating Shakespeare's medieval Verona effectively in the landscape, traditional piazzas and climate, noticeable in the fight when dust obscures the action. Zeffirelli takes advantage of this authenticity; showing it off, throughout the prologue, using shots of the misty city, which sharply focus just before the scene relocates to the piazza. Zeffirelli's setting allows artefacts used to be realistic. This is shown in the bell tower, showing the spread of violence and contributing to the cacophony, and in the dramatic arrival of the Prince coming to the rescue. ...read more.

Middle

Luhrmann's setting is vaguer and less romantic than Zeffirelli's; a metropolis combining various monuments. It shows modern industry and globalisation effectively -using a petrol station, industry's fuel, for the brawl, showing the unused energy of young men. The sheer size of the city inflates the severity of the conflict as it absorbs an immense set. This is worldlier than Verona with emphasis on violence and money showing a seedier side of life with a shot of a prostitute attracting some business and the ongoing violence as a Montague boy has a black eye; a less romantic use of extras than Zeffirelli. Luhrmann also includes wit in referring to guns as swords in their inscriptions. In accordance with his setting Luhrmann has included a multi-racial cast in keeping with the modern theme - the prince and Mercutio are black. Luhrmann has, like Zeffirelli, distinguished between the houses and given the film a tribal theme with costume -surfer versus leather and metal. Tybalt is again shown as aggressive and machismo, stripping off his jacket and kissing his gun, although watching for the first time it can seem a parody; he is so overdone. ...read more.

Conclusion

iconography which appears regularly throughout the scene - statues, on guns, tattoos, Tybalt's waistcoat, necklaces, in the limo and even shaved into the back of a character's head. Luhrmann also uses numerous close-ups during this first scene, of the match and Tybalt's heel emphasizing the aggression of that action, of feet to build suspense, faces, Tybalt and Benvolio - going closer for a view of the eyes, on the butts of the guns, Tybalt's cigarette dropping, flames, and later Romeo's face and diary. After the repetition of the prologue there are freeze-frames of the characters accompanied by an introduction and during the scene the screen freezes on characters and repeats this, this helps the viewer to get the characters sorted out. Luhrmann also provides shots focusing on the helicopter carrying the Prince and aerial views from the helicopter's perspective which is an original way of presenting the violence breaking out over the city. For the introduction of Romeo the camera is used differently; he is silhouetted against a natural setting in natural light, shown at a distance, alone. He is then shown again slightly silhouetted with the camera rising from his feet to his face, a technique to build suspense also employed by Zeffirelli. ...read more.

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