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GCSE Media Piece Comparing two films

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Media Assignment: English Today Magazine English teachers are well aware that appreciating a Shakespearian play such as 'Romeo and Juliet' is not something that the twenty first century GCSE student finds particularly interesting. As a member of Year Ten, I think that the use of a visual medium especially the film would be considerably useful in assisting pupils with their comprehension and analytical understanding of the play. Two of the most common productions that are currently used in the classroom are Luhrman's film version which was made relatively recently and is set in a modern Verona and Zeffirelli's adaptation which is set in a contemporary Elizabethan Verona and produced in the 60s. Both are advantageous in different ways and they might possibly attract different audiences. First of all let's look at the opening of Luhrman's film. The first thing that the audience see is a newsreader on a television reciting the prologue superimposed on a dark screen. Since there is neither background music nor other images except the newsreader, the point of focus is the words of the prologue thus emphasising their importance. Furthermore in the top corner of the news reader's screen there is a ring which is split in two. Isn't this a graphic way to encapsulate the message of the prologue that the love between Romeo and Juliet is torn apart by conflict? I think this will certainly leave a lasting impression to the minds of the students. ...read more.


Conversely, a weakness in this version is that the tone of the fight is slightly comical; small details such as naming Tybalt 'prince of cats' and playing 'wild west' music while the Capulets leave their car, are quite unnecessary and perhaps detracts some of the quality from this version of this scene. Zeffirelli's version of the public brawl scene is also excellently portrayed; the key ideas that Zeferelli assists GCSE students to understand in this scene are the brutality and scale of the conflict between the two families, the pugnacious nature of Tybalt and the influence that the households have upon ordinary people and everyday life. During the brawl almost the entire city is involved even the ordinary people; Zeferelli has spent a large proportion of his budget on extras rather than special effects, enabling him to clearly convey to the audience the scale of the conflict. The fight is portrayed in a much more serious nature than the Luhrman film; several people in this version are killed or seriously injured, the market place is being torn apart and women and children are screaming. All of this in conjunction exemplify a sense of brutality that appears to be absent in Luhrman's version. Furthermore, through the use of close combat weaponry such as swords the viewers get the impression of a more meaningful 'personal' battle. Tybalt in this scene is brilliantly illustrated by the actor Michael York; he is shown as the main cause of the melee because he leads a band of Capulets into the fight and he is the one who cries "Capulet!" ...read more.


This is an outstanding way of illustrating to the audience the theme of fate and clearly conveys that Romeo believes that his life is predetermined. The scene however also has a weak point, Luhrman portrays Queen Mab as a drug, this alone is not too bad (perhaps an interpretation of the line "no bigger than an agate stone"), but the oddity is that Romeo then takes the. Personally I think that this gives the wrong impression to a GCSE audience it almost leads us to believe that Romeo is not fully aware or conscious of the decisions that he makes in the next scene. In conclusion both films have advantages and disadvantages. However I would like to recommend the use of Luhrman's film in order to assist GCSE students with their appreciation of the play. Primarily because of Luhrman's use of contemporary to modern day setting and the use of fresh parallels that appropriately replace some on the events in the original play without any losing any of the meaning; I think that this will really help GCSE students to comprehend and value Shakespeare's play. Another decisive factor was Zeffirelli's omission of key aspects in Act I sc 1 that are absolutely essential for GCSE students. Thank you very much for taking time to read my comments about this topic and I hope you take this into consideration when you decide which film of 'Romeo and Juliet' to show your pupils. ...read more.

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