Compare And Contrast The Presentation Of Two Film Versions Of The Prologue To Romeo And Juliet. How Do The Different Directors Interpret This Scene?
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.
This is a preview of the whole essay
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 picture.
In comparison to Zeffirellis’, which was read by a man, in a dramatic deep, but at the same time soothing tone. The narrator voice rises in anger and we hear it cracking with emotion as he discusses the violence of their city; it is read slowly giving the audience time to reflect on what is being said. Luhrmann’s narration is repeated three times, once by the African American newscaster, then in a voice-over by the Friar and finally as a fragmentary form on the monitors as a part of the narrative sequence. At this point Luhrmann builds his prologue up to a critical culmination, causing anxieties among the audience of what is imminent. Luhrmann felt this was essential for his new adapting audience to receive a greater insight of the plot, in order to gain a full perception of the play. On the contrary, Zeffirelli’s repeated once as his mainstream audience was already in association of Shakespeare’s work and knew what to expect.
Both films contains many similarities, an example of this would be when both directors used colours and imagery to illustrate hidden images of the narrative. Namely, in Luhrmann’s interpretation the anchor woman, may have been wearing red to exemplify, the lives lost, during this war between the ‘two households.’ In similarity to Zeffirelli’s adaptation, in which he displays the bloodshed, through the use of a slow camera zoom into the blazing setting sun, ablaze with personal passions as Sir Lawrence Olivier presents the line ‘of civil blood, civil hands comes unclean’; we associate the use of the bloody setting sun to be in relation to the bloodshed and the end to a sinful era.
Luhrmann’s elucidation commences with a static long shot focus on a TV in the middle of the room. A slow zoom brings the set nearer until it fills a substantial proportion of the screen. It is read and directed in such a way it entices you as the camera slowly zooms in, taking the audience with him as we wonder what is going on and what will happen next. In like manner to Zeffirelli’s version which of whom consists of a slow natural panning of the city, with the use of traditional instruments, Zeffirelli’s soft, slow and modulated music, provides a visual equivalent to a godlike, distant, style which contrasts so vividly with the passion and violence inside Verona’s walls. The city, shrouded in fog, also has a formal rightness using imagery in a significant way, with only one transition, and static shot. Allowing time for the spectators to comprehend all of which as been said, as the tale instigates.
Luhrmann emphasises the setting as the news bulletin ends. The camera zooms forward to scenes of Verona, with the word ‘In fair Verona’ flashing on the screen. Using a sequences of rank zooms into the statue of Jesus between the two opposed families skyscrapers dominating Verona bearing the names Montague and Capulet, overshadowing the city’s horizon. The repeated focus on the Jesus statue and other religious icons, (such as the Virgin Mary) comment on how religion, like the law, is no longer an effective means of maintaining peace and harmony in modern society. On the other hand the statue of Jesus between the Montague’s and Capulet buildings may have been used to display the dominance of both buildings to be ‘both alike in dignity’. The Jesus symbol depicts to the audience that only the power of God can stop the ‘ancient grudge’ between the two families while importing the play’s introductory content in a format familiar to a modern audience.
Headlines repetition is also used to get the viewers to know the story and what has happened in the past. Luhrmann has done this very well, because the newspaper headlines are fast and so this gives the impression to the viewer that there is a fight everyday or frequently between the two families. To explicit, the reason of flashing the words, 'Fair Verona' while the camera rushes down the high street, the audience understands the comparison and realise exactly how 'fair' Verona really is in his version of the film. It shows a decaying urban landscape contradicting 'fair Verona'. The font style of the writing is bold like Arial, and is in block capitals, making it clear to the audience what it says. On the contradictory Zeffirelli’s construal, the camera slowly pans over the city; you can see that Verona is very appealing and fair, as the prologue says it is.
The audience is then presented with numerous camera shots and transitions, which increases rapidly as the opening scenes of the film comes to an end. Analogous to Luhrmann gospel/ gothic music, it becomes frenetically paced, shifting hastily and dynamically. Creating a dramatic, horror intensity, building the prologue to an awe-inspiring climate, contributing to the prevalent atmosphere and mood (utilising a helicopter and various other sound effect to accentuate modern era as it exists).
The onset of the film shocked viewers by the unanticipated avalanche of images flashing across the screen. The contemporary sets, attire, attitude, and music, is going too fast for comprehension. Intermittent jump cuts bump against, over cranked camera speeds used for supposed comic effect. The spectators are shown various aerial and long shots which pans across the cityscape as police cars and helicopters vigorously move about, and human causalities are strewn across the ground. Fascinating the audience at the latest outbreak of violence caused by the feud that as affected the entire city. The statue of Jesus watches impassively at the pandemonium, the city dwells in. The rapid transitions, generates an electrifying, intense, effeminate, energetic and exhilarating atmosphere for the audience. As transitions presents fragments of the prologue in the sub- headings of the newspapers, and juxtaposing media coverage clips of riot police attempting to restore order on the streets. Flashing graphic images of violence to communicate the setting to the audience, astonishing the audience at the tragic outcome of the rivalry between the two co-operation businesses. The viewer becomes so distracted and hypnotized by the motion of the camera and morsels of information; it is almost too overwhelming to attain. I was immediately drawn into the breath-taking preamble of the film (like a bee is to honey).
Luhrmann employs an assortment of tactics to the prologue, to catch the attention of the audience interest and acuity of the film. Medium close ups of both key family members, shows feelings and facial expressions of aggression and/or worry, edifying trepidation. Hatred between the two families is expressed, identifying scenes of contention. On the other hand it also provides a prelude of characters involved in the film (abstract Romeo and Juliet).
In the news report, the audience is responsive to a broken ring in the top left hand corner of the screen showing the end of a tragic love story, and portraying what is to come.
Moreover, the spectators are shown a diminutive preview of the film showing scenes of action and death. This was an excellent touch to an already invigorating opening, immediately captivating my attention, leaving me avaricious for more, as queries begin to formulate in my psyche; ‘What will be to come?’ ‘How as the change in scenery effected the plot of the film?’ and ‘Why would Luhrmann decide to make this film this way, and will it be as intriguing as seemed?’ (Well, the film received no awards, so … obviously not)!
In contrast to Zeffirelli’s slow, relaxing scenes with a shot of a bell tower as the camera slowly pans over the landscape, presenting the audience with the initiative, that maybe the bell was shown to exemplify the significance of the dispute between the two families, used to alert citizens when danger is coming. These subtle but effective shots cause the spectators to endure all sentiments the film, making the movie as pragmatic as possible; perchance causing affiliates of the audience to consider the film to be a true story and not just a work of magnificence fiction.
Both productions were constructed for completely different audiences further stressing the fact; the two films were utterly dissimilar. Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet was anticipated for the juvenile contemporary audience. People whom like action, passion and radiant scenarios. Quite the reverse, to Zeffirelli’s film which targeted audiences, whom already consist of intellectuals of Shakespeare’s work. The authenticity of the motion picture, was made as much like Shakespeare’s play as possible. Everything was made to be as genuine with young actors and authentic surroundings are outstandingly real to how he would compose his writing.
The techniques used in both films are very contrasting, the innovation and symbolic imagery in Luhrmann’s movie creates a theme based on out to the minds of his audience, and convey the alienation of modern society, by intellectualising rather than stating the obvious. He can be commended for his attempt, which is a marvellous rendition of late 20th century degeneration. Whist doing this, Luhrmann has immortalised Shakespeare, and even more so, Romeo and Juliet, who will, in any setting, remain the epitome of the star-crossed lovers. Luhrmann’s aggressively modern, assertively trendy adaptations of Shakespeare ever filmed, this overwhelmingly of-the-moment version of one of literature's most enduring tragic love stories can serve as a litmus test for any viewer's willingness to accept extreme stylistic attitudinising as a substitute for the virtues of traditional storytelling. (Is surprisingly anything but dull! Ultimately saved by the manifestly indestructible qualities of the 400 -year-old play), the responsive audience for this significantly flawed but freshly conceived picture, giving it a solid base for where its conceptual strengths may more easily prevail over its linguistic and dramatic shortcomings.
On the contrary Luhrmann’s simultaneously is striking, boldly elaborated, unconvincing, imaginative and misguided. Although arresting in spots, it falls far short of bringing out the full values of the play, and doesn't approach the emotional resonance of Franco Zeffirelli's immensely popular 1968 screen version. In contrast to Luhrmanns’ Romeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli’s of visual beauty sets the ambience of an endearing passionate love affair, bursting with intensity of the hatred, love and tragedy inside ‘Verona’. Whilst Luhrmann contemplates more on tragedy, violence and hatred of the two families, than the felt affection between the ‘two star crossed lovers’.
In accumulation, to my analysis of Luhrmann’s opening scenes of Shakespeare’s play prologue Romeo and Juliet. I have considered that, Luhrmann used the contemporary day to not only attract his new-fangled audience to the film, but to also convey to the spectators the rivalry going on in our world. Illustrating that if all of the pertinent information was used without careful consideration. How easily people in our society could become influenced through the effects of society leaders today. ‘Of civil hands, come civil blood unclean’. Causing the audience to question ‘how to deal with the social problems in the world? Furthermore, realising how corrupt our community is…’
Luhrmann and Zeffirelli’s versions of the film were both outstandingly produced, thus causing my perception of the two films to differ, although the two films remain effective in my psyche but in different ways. Luhrmann’s ingenious use of modernisation and vibrant location, (even despite the fact that it was slightly baffling), seizing the interest of contemporary viewers, as we feel as if we could relate to the heart breaking passionate affair of Romeo and Juliet. Conversely Zeffirelli’s bona fide, well-made version, ensnared me, as I felt I understood the passion and purity of Romeo and Juliet love. On the divergent the film may have appealed to me, however it won’t to everybody as it is aimed only at Shakespearean aficionados. Impeding modern viewers of capability of relating to the environment,
and hence has a durable time of indulgencing the plot.