How effective do you find Zeffirelli's interpretation of the death scene in "Romeo and Juliet"?
How effective do you find Zeffirelli’s interpretation of the death scene in “Romeo and Juliet”?
I think Zeffirelli’s interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet” is quite successful at expressing how he feels the play should be shown. He uses lots of techniques to make the play enjoyable, appealing and imaginative. To do this he uses different camera angles, realistic scenery, costumes, sounds and music. He cut some scenes that he didn’t think were particularly relevant to the storyline, and added some lines for effect.
He has a love theme playing throughout the film that is played in minor and major keys depending how he wants the audience to feel. It is played in minor key when something bad is about to happen, for example when Romeo takes the poison, and in minor key when something good happens, like when Juliet wakes up from her “death”. He uses variations of this theme depending on whether he wants the audience to feel happy or sad. He also uses some diagetic sounds, like birds tweeting in the churchyard scene, to make it seem more realistic. As Friar Laurence enters the tomb, there is no music because we are not supposed to feel sorry for him. When Juliet is waking up, Zeffirelli uses the love theme, starting quietly, and gradually getting louder to signify the life entering her, this is very effective. The funeral scene does not have any sound apart from the bells ringing very sombrely and echoing around the courtyard; this makes it feel bleak and depressing, as a funeral in these circumstances should be.
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He makes some cuts to the plot that he doesn’t think are particularly relevant or would spoil the way he expresses the characters. He cuts the death of Paris to keep the audience thinking that Romeo is a pleasant person. He cuts the messenger getting stuck in an inn with the plague so the audience just assume that Balthazar got there first. Romeo appears much more unprepared in the film than he does in the play because you do not see him buying the poison and he doesn’t bring a crowbar to open the tomb with, so he ends up using a stone to open the door. As well as cutting various scenes he adds some lines for effect, Friar Laurence repeats “I dare no longer stay” which makes him panicky and adds tension to the scene. Juliet adds a “No” when the guards are coming to add urgency. In the play, Lady Montague dies but Zeffirelli has cut her death so that when the families join together at the end they can go in in pairs. Friar Laurence’s speech is also cut.
Romeo wears velvet in soft colours, which makes him look soft and romantic. Juliet wears gold, which makes her appear golden against the darkness of the tomb so she looks radiantly alive despite being “dead” beforehand. When Juliet takes off her hat it makes her look young and vulnerable, as she is at that point. At the funeral everyone is wearing very dark clothes as they are in mourning. Juliet is wearing Capulet colours as she is carried into the church because became a Capulet when she married Romeo. The Montague and Capulet ladies are wearing incredibly similar clothes, which shows that they aren’t as different as they think.
The camerawork is very important in the interpretation as it shows all the other factors in the best possible way it can. There aren’t many varying shots as they are mostly short panning shots or close-ups on important moments, like when Juliet is waking up there is a close up of her hands as they start to move when the life re-renters them.
The scenery is very realistic and adds very much to the overall affect of the play. The churchyard is very pretty and romantic, with lots of trees and flowers. It seems very calm in the churchyard because everything is so beautiful. The tomb is dark and made of stone, this makes it feel like a sinister place, which it is, considering all the dead bodies lying in it. The funeral scene is set in the doorway of the church, which looks out onto a courtyard. It is very good scenery as it is very sombre and the largeness of the courtyard causes the bells to echo, which makes the scene much more sinister.
The lighting adds a lot to each scene. The tomb is lit by torchlight, which reflects on the main characters and makes them look almost heavenly, as the light is golden and flickers across their faces. In the funeral scene there are clouds in the sky, which make it look dark and depressing. The bodies are carried into a dark church, which symbolises the terrible end to two peoples lives, due to petty arguments. At the end, when the families are joining together and walking into the church they are framed by the light behind them and you can’t see their faces as they are walking into darkness.