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A Comparison Of Luhrman’s and Zeffirelli’s film Versions Of Romeo And Juliet Essay

I am comparing Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet, which was produced in 1968 and has won several academy awards. One critic stated “His film has become the definitive version in high school classrooms across the country.”I am also reviewing Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. This was produced in 1995. What can you say about a version of Shakespeare that ends with a helicopter chase? As you would imagine it is a much more modern version than Zeffirelli’s. I am going to review 2 parts of each of the films and try and come to a conclusion to show which is better and why. The scenes I will be reviewing are the opening scenes and the party scenes.Both films are based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but each portrays the play in a completely different way. Zeffirelli’s version was rated a PG although there are scenes including nudity. Luhrman’s was rated a 12. I imagine this is because so of the violence throughout and the fact that guns were often used and scenes such as Mercutio’s death scene which is gory and gruesome.Luhrman’s opening scene starts with a television in the middle of the screen. The television is showing a black American woman saying the original Shakespeare prologue as if it was a news report. As the camera zooms in the audience can see in the background there is a broken ring with “Star Crossed Lovers” below it. The dialogue is fast and quite a high tone. A narrator then repeats the prologue. This time the voice is a deeper tone and slightly slower. It is spoken in a way that is slightly threatening and hints at the fact there will be evil in the film.As the scene moves on there is also text on the screen as the prologue is being read. It is certain parts of the prologue such as “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” which really emphasises certain things that become a lot more obvious in the play. The characters also appear on screen with their name next to them. There is also text to tell the audience how each character is related to either Romeo or Juliet. The camera is constantly panning from side to side. As soon as you see the title you get a hint of religion and race from the cross between Romeo and Juliet. The same cross also appears on the screen when the words “Take Their Lives.” The T on “Take” is shown as a cross, which again emphasises the religion and race throughout the film.The camera zooms in on a crowded city, gradually slowing down and flowing into quick flashes of important parts of the play across the screen, making a big montage of hint giving shots. In the background is some very dramatic, loud, and exciting music as shots of flames, chaos, helicopters, fireworks, police, and guns shoot onto screen. There are also shots of two tall office buildings, one with ‘Montague’ on it and the other with ‘Capulet’ on it and shots of newspaper articles with titles such as “Capulat vs. Montague” and “Star crossed lovers.”The shots of the buildings and newspapers are an extremely strong hint of conflict between Capulet and Montague and a story of love and hate. Each frame lasts less than a second. This fast editing and use of dramatic music really gets your heart beating and makes you want to watch on and find out why all these images were included in the opening scene. Luhrman also uses bright lighting to really get the film going. The images show that there is going to be police involved and the flames and the chaos hint at some traumatic events. The fireworks also hint at the fact there may be a party and that it is going to be a lively and exiting film.Zeffirelli’s opening scene is very different from Luhrman’s. It starts with a male narrator speaking slowly at a constant tone with little emotion in his voice. The words spoken are exactly the same as Shakespeare’s original prologue. The dialogue sounds quite sad and romantic, which gives a hint of romance in the film. The camera is paused on a bird’s eye view of a foggy village. There is lots of natural light as the sun slowly breaks through the fog. The camera editing is much slower than Luhrman’s.It then breaks into a long shot of the historic looking city with slow classical music in the background. The music has no lyrics and hints at a romantic film. The city looks very old and historic. This gives the impression of how a city would have looked in Shakespeare’s time. Unlike Luhrman’s, Zeffirelli’s has no sound effects or people in the opening scene. The lighting is also a lot dimmer and less modern than Luhrman’s. The text in Zeffirelli’s is in an ‘old fashioned’ style and it just states the name of the play and characters. This has a much lesser effect than Luhrman’s text does.The camera shots are a lot longer and therefore show a slow, romantic, and love filled film. The slow constant tone of the narrator and slow editing techniques are a lot less exciting and intriguing than Luhrman’s.Both Luhrman’s and Zeffirelli’s techniques are used throughout each of their films, each giving a strong impression of the director’s style.Luhrman’s party scene, like his opening scene is modern, bright, loud, and very entertaining with use of fast editing mixed with slow, long shots and fast modern music.The party scene starts with a big display of fireworks that gets the audience’s attention and shows them that the scene to come is going to be lively and entertaining. It then moves on to quick moving party lights flashing throughout the Capulet’s house. Then we see Mercutio, in the middle of some huge stairs, dressed in women’s clothes. Dancers surround him and loud ‘party’ music is playing in the background. This shows modernism in the film. Zeffirelli wouldn’t have dreamt of putting this in his film. Purely because people’s attitudes to sexuality, cross-dressing etc. has changed a lot since 1968. The carpet on the stairs is bright purple and there are bits of strong reds all around the room. Again, this is one of the many things that makes this film modern and relates it to a modern audience.The camera is constantly closing in on Romeo and then quickly panning to a close up of Juliet, showing their facial expressions and hinting at their feelings. The camera is mainly level with the actor’s heads. This makes the audience feel as if they were in the room with the characters.The party is set in a big house with large, bright stairs in the centre of the back wall. The room where the characters are dancing is brightly decorated with flowers. There are also lots of mirrors and a very large window. The mirrors and decoration show that the Capulets are wealthy. The characters are wearing shiny, brightly coloured, modern outfits. It is actually fancy dress. Juliet is dressed as a fairy, which shows she is a soft, caring, and loving character.The music in the background is slow and repetitive. It is by Desiray, which are a modern group and is perfect music to show love in the film because the lyrics state about love. The music pauses and the camera stays in a fixed position when Romeo and Juliet stop and stare at each other. This shows strongly the fact that something significant is going to happen between the two characters.The lighting in Luhrman’s party scene is extremely technical. There are spotlights, spinning lights, neon lights, and fairground lights. Each one giving its own effect. The spotlight highlights Mercutio when he is dancing. There are also fireworks going on outside the house, which give the setting a more romantic feel.Overall Luhrman’s party scene is a lot different to Zeffirelli’s because it is more lively, modern and ‘wild.’ In Luhrman’s the audience see passionate kissing, excessive drinking and hints of drug use. This plays a big part in relating the play to a modern audience.Again, Zeffirelli’s party scene is very different from Luhrman’s. It is a lot more traditional and historic. The whole scene is much slower and more romantic than Luhrman’s.In Zeffirelli’s there is a lot of singing. Especially near the end. Like Luhrman’s there are a lot of close ups on Romeo and Juliet and the camera is at the same level as the characters heads. This, again, makes the audience feel more like they are at the party. The editing is a lot slower than Luhrman’s and the shots tend to be a lot longer, giving the audience a sense of love. There are a few faster scenes to highlight the conflict between the Capulets and the Montagues.Like Luhrman’s the party is set in a big mansion that had big stone walls and huge stone pillars. The pillars give focal points for the party. There are beautiful mosaics on the floor. Towards the end of the scene a man is singing with a circle of people around him. He is stood in the centre of one of the mosaics and it, again, gives a sense of love and romance. This is also given by the fact that there are lots of large candles spread around the roomThe characters are all wearing old costumes to represent Shakespeare’s time and all the men are wearing hats. Romeo is wearing a mask so that the Capulets will not see that he is a Montague. The colours are all quite soft and more elegant than in Luhrman’s. All the Montague’s are wearing dark colours and all the guests at the party are wearing soft oranges and cr�mes. This is a sneaky little hint of conflict between the two households. That hint is needed in this scene because the audience could forget about the conflict because both households are at the same party.The music is mostly slow but when there is a long shot of the guests dancing the music becomes a lot faster and livelier. This change gets the full attention of the audience. There are no sound effects in Zeffirelli’s party scene.The lighting in the scene is a lot more modest than in Luhrman’s but still creates good images and hints at important things. One of the walls of the castle has a blue light shone onto it and it really gives a calm, relaxed atmosphere. Instead of having a spot light like in Luhrman’s, Zeffirelli has used the natural light from outside the window to shine on the man singing. This again shows love and romance and still keeps the film as if it were set in Shakespearian times.After having seen both versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet I think that each film was made for a very different reason. I think that Zeffirelli’s film was made to be as accurate to the original as possible but I think that Luhrman wanted to modernise the play for a modern audience. I think both directors achieved this.Zeffirelli’s version was much more about love, romance, and conflict between two families. He made the audience feel this by constantly using slow camera techniques and classical music with modest lighting. He also gave lots of hints about the conflict such as using different costumes for the Capulets and Montagues. Zeffirelli also made his film as much like the original as possible. He did this by using settings, lighting, music and costume that would have been around in Shakespeare’s day. He didn’t use many modern effects because these would not have been available when Shakespeare wrote his play.Luhrman’s film was a lot more modern. He has turned a historic play into a modern film for the people of today. His fast editing and constantly panning camera angles along with his fantastic sound and visual effects made this film an amazing version of a fantastic play. He modernises the play so well by doing things such as making the character ‘Paris’ into ‘Dave Paris’ and ‘Prince’ into ‘Captain Prince.’ He uses guns instead of swords, which not only modernises the film but also makes it a lot more interesting and fast moving. A sword-fighting scene could go on forever but by using guns the fight is over with one shot.I think that the only things these films have in common are their titles and the language used in them and even that is spoken in completely different ways.I think that Luhrman’s film is a lot better than Zeffirelli’s purely because I can relate to it. Its modernisation makes it fast and exciting. It is a completely enjoyable film and I would certainly recommend it.

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