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Compare two film versions of Romeo and Juliet.

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Introduction

Year 10 Media Assignment William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet leaves a lot of room for creative elaboration. His work is still a popular choice for theatre-goers and a director will choose their own approach. Zefferelli's version (1968) was screened nearly 30 years before Luhrmann's (1997) and the two present very different ideas. Luhrmann's modern adaptation has shown young people worldwide that Shakespeare is as relevant today as it ever was. Each adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is intended for a certain type of audience. Zefferelli aimed his production at all ages, but especially the older generation that would enjoy a more traditional portrayal of the play. Traditional dress, 16th century setting, swordfighting and Received Pronunciation are all used to make it an accurate film that people can study from. This widely contrasts with the angle chosen by director Baz Luhrmann for his own adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Instead of making a film for everyone, Luhrmann challenged himself by making a film of a Shakespearean story set in a modern culture. By doing this, he aimed his own version at teenagers, particularly American teenagers as the majority of the cast are American, presenting the play in a modern, up-to-date format, with much more violence, including guns as weapons and modern drug culture, making it less appealing to the older generation, but very popular amongst young people. ...read more.

Middle

As a result of doing this, Sampson's line had to be changed from, 'A dog of the house of Montague moves me' to 'A dog of the house of Capulet moves me'. Also, Abra, a servant to the Montagues in the text, has been moved to the Capulet family. This may have been done just to balance the sides out and show that everybody has a part to play in the feud. Another change made to the lines in the first scene is that Montague and Capulets' lines are reversed, again, this is just to show that there is a parallel between both sides and they are just as much to blame as each other. Although I understood why Baz Luhrmann chose to do this I found these changes rather unnecessary and at times confusing. In both versions the text is accurate to Shakespeare's play, but a lot has been edited for dramatic effect. In the Luhrmann film version, lines which are unimportant or insignificant have been edited along with parts which people might find offensive (Mercutio talks about raping women) and lines which are dated such as those about slaves. A major change from the original in Luhrmann is that all actors are American whereas in Zefferelli all characters are English and speak in Standard English, the accent used for which is Received Pronunciation. ...read more.

Conclusion

This explains his character, which also shows that modern English is added to give the audience more understanding. Although I found Zefferelli's version of the play accurate and enjoyable, I think that for a modern audience this traditional type of portrayal of Shakespeare gives people the wrong impression that Shakespeare is solely for upper class citizens. I personally found it enjoyable, but I doubt many people nowadays would want to continue watching the rest of this film from the introduction given, rather than opt for a more modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, such as that by Baz Luhrmann. His version works extremely effectively in attracting people to the watch the rest of the film. The loud powerful music and action during the prologue invite people to continue watching, as it shows the audience right from the beginning exactly what to expect from the rest of the film. Despite stating my preference to the later adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, I think that an uneducated audience may believe that all the added modern aspects of Luhrmann's production is exactly how Shakespeare wrote his play, which may cause some confusion. Overall, I believe that Luhrmann produced the better and certainly more unique adaptation, and although Zefferelli's does seem more traditionally accurate, it is less inviting from its introduction to watch the rest of the film. ...read more.

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