Compare how Zeffirelli and Luhrman direct the ending of Romeo and Juliet.

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Compare how Zeffirelli and Luhrman direct the ending of Romeo and Juliet. William Shakespeare's great tragedy Romeo and Juliet was written around 1595. For hundreds of years it was an incredibly popular theatrical performance, staged in thousands of theatres across world. However, in the last century improvements in technology have meant that the popularity of theatre has fallen dramatically as a result of the success of cinema. A world of possibilities was created with the breakthrough of cinema; no longer was the setting confined to one stage and the creativity of the set designers, people could be taken around the world and back whilst sitting in their seats. Endless different techniques could be used to provoke emotions in the audience with the variation of shot angles and distances, not to mention the quality of sounds and music and the incredible special effects that could be achieved as technology progressed ever further. It was inevitable that Shakespeare's enduring, classic yet tragic love story of "star-crossed lovers" Romeo and Juliet would one day make it up onto the big screen. In fact there have been many attempts to recreate the play as a film. Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrman are two of the most successful director's to date to have achieved this, despite the huge contrasts between the films' target audiences, setting and the thirty year gap between the release dates. In 1968 the Florentine director Franco Zeffirelli released his version of Romeo and Juliet.


The whole idea of Romeo and Juliet is to outline the contrasts and similarities between love and hate, and how these emotions alone can be fatal. The crucifixes and red light produced by the candles will enhance this idea at this crucial point in the film, and may make the message of the film stronger in the viewer's memory. In contrast, covered dead bodies of Juliet's ancestors fill Zeffirelli's catacomb. The bodies remind the viewers of the deaths of the 'star-crossed lovers' that have been foretold in the prologue at the beginning of the film, and so build a feeling of tension and apprehension in the audience as they anticipate the death's of the two lovers. Despite the contrasts on the settings, the predominant colour in both film's endings is blue. This colour symbolises the tragedy and sadness of the situation and enhances the unhappy atmosphere in the audience. A build up in the volume and the intensity of the music is used by both directors to mirror the build up of emotion in Romeo as he approaches Juliet. In Luhrman's film, the orchestral music starts softly as Romeo leaves the small hall, with only a few instruments playing, but as he continues down the aisle of the church, more and more instruments begin playing until the music finally climaxes when Romeo reaches Juliet. This musical build up provokes the viewer to react to the emotional state of Romeo. It may force the viewer to feel a similar emotional build up to Romeo as he experiences anger, heartbreaking grief and many other emotions at the realisation of Juliet's 'death'.


After Romeo's death, there is no non-diagetic sound for a period of almost two minutes. The only noises to break the silence are those of Juliet crying and her loading Romeo's gun. The silence surrounding these noises emphasise the importance of the actions that create them. Juliet's crying shows her grief and despair at the loss of her husband and the audience, who are forced to focus on this sound, will empathise with her grief. Luhrman uses close-ups and slow-motion of the movement of the gun to emphasise the significance of the weapon and the action. The slow motion shots show the viewer the formation of the plan, in Juliet's mind, to kill herself. An atmosphere of tension and suspense is created with the emphasis of the sound of the gun being loaded and the slow-motion movement of Juliet bringing the gun to her head as the audience anticipate her death. The sudden loud sound of the gun shot, although it is expected, may startle the viewer. Luhrman uses a bird's eye view of the dead couple which gives the impression looking down on them from a heavenly perspective, interspersed with flashbacks of the happiest moments shared between Romeo and Juliet as a way of reminding the audience that the two lovers died because of their love for one another. The music used in the background is not solemn, as you would expect after the death of two people, but joyous which shows the viewer that Romeo and Juliet are happy to finally be together, that they would much prefer to be together in death than alive but apart.

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