Comparing to versions of Romeo and
The star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are presented in two famous movie productions. The first directed by Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996. The updated Luhrmann picture best captures the essence of Shakespeare for the present day viewer. Through the use of modernisation and location, while preserving Shakespearean language, to capture the audience. Equally Zeffirelli’s more historical interpretation show cases the original medieval architecture the Shakespeare contemplated. In the opening scene of the movie, Lurhmann’s starts with a prologue masked as a news broadcast on the television.
This sets the scene of the play by illustrating the violence occurring between the two wealthy families, the Montagues and the Capulets. In Zeffirelli’s film, the prologue takes the form of a narrator, relating the story of the Montagues and Capulets over a backdrop of an Italian city. Verona then was a setting with highly religious dimensions.
A neutral place where Romeo and Juliet’s worlds overlap is at Friar Lawrence’s church.
In both films this seems to be the only place Juliet is allowed to go outside of her own home. In Lurhmann’s film Romeo has a strong bond with Friar Lawrence however; in the older film their bond does not appear as strong. As well as updating Shakespeare’s play to the present decade through, Lurhmann’s film is more enjoyable because of the vibrant settings. The Zeffirelli “Romeo and Juliet” occurs in an ancient Italian city, with cobblestone streets and Roman mansions.
Although the original play was meant to be performed in this setting, the modern viewer cannot relate to the environment, and therefor has a hard time understanding the plot and empathising the characters. Zeffirelli keeps the authenticity of dress by dressing his actors in hose and doublet. This helps us to understand the theme that Shakespeare first intended. The two gangs are dressed in their gang colours ( Montagues in orange and the Capulets in Blue.) Lurhmann’s cutting edge costume transforms Shakespeare’s play by dressing the two gangs in totally different clothing altogether. By choosing to dress the Montagues in tropical Hawaiian shirts with the buttons undone, and the Capulets in a more formal style in leather pants and Jackets, showcasing their gangster style and highlighting their harsh interior and also their wealth. Lurhmann chose to make the party fancy dress and we gain a better understanding of each character through their costume.
Baz Lurhmann clothes Juliet as an angel and this symbolizes her beauty, innocence and purity as she is a young lady who is being introduced to the rest of her family’s and contacts for the very first time. He then follows on to have Juliet’s father, Lord Montague, dressed up as the famous Roman emperor Julius Caesar to signify power, importance and wealth. His wife (Juliet’s mother) is dressed up as Cleopatra by extremely clever costume symbolism; we also recognise her wealth and Importance as a figure in society. Romeo attends the party as a Knight, the definitive romantic figure. This hints to us there may be some romance between him and another character. Although his costume also represents strength, as Knights are typically strong and well-built figures, this attracts us to the characters and we are left wanting to know more. On the contrary, Zeffirelli doesn’t use fancy dress to give us a better understanding of the main roles, but does use costume symbolism. For example, when we meet Rossaline at the party her dress is extravagant, brightly coloured and covered in diamonds, and this draws attention to her flirtatious behaviour and lust for male attention.
This is juxtaposed with Juliet’s simplistic and understated dress. It shows that Juliet is a true beauty, and does not need fakery to bring out her assets and attract attention. Zeffirelli’s presents a classical soundtrack containing flutes and harps. The music is a loud fast tempo when Rossaline enters again drawing attention to her flirtatious persona and her out going presence. Although Juliet’s entrance is accompanied by softer instruments to highlight her gentle nature and pure soul. The lead singer of Radio-head viewed Zeffirelli’s interpretation when he was 13 years of age he immediately fell in love with the film and inspired him to write the key song to Luhrmann’s soundtrack including some big chart toppers from 1996. Each director uses very different camera effects. Luhrmann uses an establishing shot early in the movie which shows the importance and dominance of the two families. From a birds-eye perspective the audience can see how influential the Montague and Capulet families are; their towering skyscrapers command the sky.
In addition, the birds-eye shot helps us relate to the intensity and hussle and bussle of the location, although Luhrmann also uses extreme close ups to sum up the emotion and passion in the characters eyes. However Zeffirelli’s shots are of a slower tempo and a gentler pace. One of the main reasons for this is that they couldn’t access the same editing software; nevertheless it contributes to traditional renaissance of Shakespeare’s powerful play scripts. To conclude both films were enjoyable to both the modern viewer and the older generation of viewers. However, in my opinion Baz Luhrmann’s film was more enjoyable because of the modern setting and the recognizable actors. In addition the up to date soundtrack and costumes keeps the audience interested and engrossed.
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