Compare And Contrast The Presentation Of Two Film Versions Of The Prologue To Romeo And Juliet. How Do The Different Directors Interpret This Scene?

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Julie Hammond 10CHI             Media English Coursework

Compare And Contrast The Presentation Of Two Film Versions Of The Prologue To Romeo And Juliet.

How Do The Different Directors Interpret This Scene?

I have been scrutinizing Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli’s unique styles of interpreting Shakespeare’s, late 1590 ‘s, play prologue: Romeo and Juliet. (To be truthful when I first found out I was going to be studying Romeo and Juliet, I thought I was about to pull my hair out! Image having to watch two Shakespeare play prologues, let alone writing an essay comparing it! Surely you would die of boredom? Wouldn’t you?)

 A prologue is commonly known as a foreword of an introductory material of prose work, which in this case is a play. Shakespeare wrote his prologue as an Iambic pentameter sonnet  (a form that he is renound for). To give his audience a sneak preview of what ‘the two hours’ traffick of our stage…’ would be in reference to.

Luhrmann and Zeffirelli are considered to be ‘both alike in dignity’; they are both well-known directors of their era. Although well established, their styles fluctuate dramatically. Their many similarities consist of not being afraid to be unconventional. Zeffirelli astonished his mainstream audience by casting two unidentified actors to play the roles Romeo and Juliet: Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. In a similar vein, Luhrmann aimed his film towards an audience who would not usually be associated with Shakespeare; he cast two famous actors Claire Danes and Leonardo Dicapario, to capture the attention of his new mainstream audience. This was not as successful as Zeffirelli’s interpretation, as the film received four academy awards while Luhrmanns’ received none. (Perhaps Shakespeare’s work should be left in the 16th century where it belongs)!

Luhrmann is acknowledged for his fast – paced musicals using his avant- garde, eccentric and contemporary techniques. By contrast Zeffirelli is famous for his Shakespearean plays and traditional manners of setting. Zeffirelli often remains true to Italian roots, as his films are constantly associated to Italy in numerous ways.

The scenery of Luhrmann and Zeffirelli’s construal differ drastically, Luhrmann’s adaptation made in the year 1996, sets his film in the exciting, modern, urbanised city of Verona Beach, creating an chaotic urban world familiar to a 20th century cinema audience, through it’s uses of media coverage of feud showing the scenes of violence and chaos on the streets, who are drawn into garish and violent mythical town of the feud ravaged world ‘Verona’. Displaying a scenery of a city where it would be impossible for a love story between ‘two feuding’ family to be long lived as peaceful and violent world collides, a somewhat apocalyptic setting is created. Alternatively Zeffirelli’s 1968 version is situated in the calm, relaxing, and medieval atmosphere of Verona, Italy in the 16th century (no surprise there)! The audience impression of the film would be for it to stay extremely acute to original Elizabethan script, as it is set in the authentic traditional setting as written in play.    

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Luhrmann’s narration of the play is unusual but highly effective. You could image how shocked I was to see an African-American female anchorwoman, wearing red, delivering the opening lines of the prologue in the controlled professional tones of a contemporary reportage bulletin! Giving the events a feeling of immediacy and urgency. Albeit, the contrast between the contemporary presentation of the Elizabethan prologue, was rather mystifying, as I, personally concentrated more on what she was wearing and what it symbolise than the contents of the prologue. Alternatively Luhrmann may have used his subtle approach, to intrigue his audience in the motion ...

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