Comparison of the opening sequences of two different versions of 'Romeo & Juilet' - Zefferelli & Luhrmann

Authors Avatar

Media Assignment: Comparison of the opening sequences of two different versions of ‘Romeo & Juilet’ – Zefferelli & Luhrmann

The objective of this essay is to compare two different film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juilet. Franco Zefferelli directed the first rendition of this play in 1968. This was the more conventional, traditional version of the play. It was slow, peaceful, and in my opinion, how Shakespeare would’ve wanted it. Despite it being old, it was a beautiful interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragic love story. Here, Leonard Whiting played Romeo and Olivia Hussey played Juilet. The whole cast were kitted out in lifelike, accurate costumes, the settings and props were extremely realistic and in general, the film was a great success. The second interpretation of this play caused a lot of controversy. Directed by the very courageous and daring Baz Luhrmann in 1996, it was a first. Luhrmann bought Shakespeare’s classic play about star-crossed lovers into the modern day. It was fast, action-packed and in-your-face. This film was an immediate hit with the audience. It made everyone excited and full of adrenaline – guns, loud music, fast cars and Romeo played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Those who wouldn’t read a Shakespeare play would think again after seeing this! This film bought Shakespeare to life again with great effect – it’s something everyone today can relate to. I consider the opening sequence an essential part of any film, as it sets the scene and gives the audience an idea of what to anticipate in the rest of the movie.

        Expectedly, the two films have entirely dissimilar openings. The Zefferelli version commences with two scenes – one of Romeo, and one of Juilet. During these slow, enticing, romantic scenes, there is gentle, peaceful music, which is there to soften the audience. After these scenes, the prologue is spoken, while the camera pans across the landscape of the imaginary Verona city. The narrator’s voice is soothing and evocative, which again makes the audience feel at peace. Following the reading of the prologue, the camera quickly goes down to the market scene. Here, the atmosphere changes. The contrast here is noticeable, as it goes from a peaceful landscape scene, to the hustle and bustle of the market. This gives the audience an idea of things to come. The scene starts with the Capulets merrily walking along, joking, and on the whole, being very light hearted. Next, the camera focuses on the Montagues, who are portrayed as being a lot more serious – Dark clothes, no jokes, then, after some puzzling literature, a big fight breaks out between the two rivals. Here, the audience can identify with the characters, as there are some pretty good close ups of the characters faces, which show strong emotions – fear (Benvolio), hatred (Tybalt). The slow build up also helps the audience to identify with the characters.

The Luhrmann version opens with the prologue being read by a newsreader on a miniscule television screen. This immediately suggests to the audience that the film is going to be situated in the 20th century. This also tells the audience that this whole affair is a big event – the main fact being that it’s a news story. After the prologue has been read, shots of the characters are seen. After each shot, the camera freezes and the name of that character and their role in the story comes up on screen. This drops a hint to the audience that this is going to be a fast-paced, action packed film – the speed increases adrenaline and can change the audiences’ thoughts and feelings on a film. Following that, a man reads the prologue again, except, this time, the camera focuses on different parts of the busy city during him speaking. Here we clearly see buildings with the different family names on (Montague & Capulet), separated by a statue of Jesus. This immediately notifies the audience that this is a big scale family feud. Words (The prologue) then flash quickly on the screen. This builds up the audience’s adrenaline and suggests to them what the film is going to be like. Then the first scene commences. The first scene shows the Montague boys. They are here portrayed as being the more light-hearted gang – A bright yellow car, loud music, and pink hair. The camera then shows the Montague boys drive into a gas station, where, the audience then meet the Capulets. Again, a frozen shot of the characters, and their roles comes up on screen. They are here shown as the more serious gang – dark car, dressed in black. Then after a lot of cussing, a fight breaks out. The fighting is fast and frantic, with an element of humour. The opening of this film gets the audience’s adrenaline going – it’s fast, action packed and in your face, and, going on events at the start, the two films are a world apart.

Join now!

        As the two films are both from a different generation, the props and settings are exceedingly dissimilar too. The Zefferelli version used props of the Shakespearian time, like swords, market stalls, horses and carts. As well as this, costumes are used to great effect. They help bring the audience into the Shakespearian time, as they are exceptionally accurate. These, however, are not the only elements that make this film seem real. Furthermore, the settings used in this film are true to that time period. The main opening scenes take place in a market town – typical in the Shakespearian era. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay