A Comparison of the Two Film Versions of Romeo and Juliet I have been studying the prologue to 'Romeo and Juliet' written by the
magnificent playwright, William Shakespeare sometime between 1594 and
1596. Still globally acknowledged, it has been restyled by many
directors for both stage and screen. Shakespeare starts his play with
a prologue: an introduction to a play or other piece of writing. The
prologue sets ...view middle of the document...
Luhrmann's style is to take the classical theatre model and transform
it, bringing it "bang up to date"with modern references.
Both directors choose controversial main actors. Baz Luhrmann's
unconventional 1996 version starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire
Danes, as the young lovers in the late 20th century setting.
Zeffirelli gambles by filling the two starring lead roles with two
unknown, fresh-faced teenage actors, Leonardo Whiting and Olivia Hussy
to play Romeo and Juliet in his traditional 1968 version, which
offended a lot of people. Zeffirelli felt that their youthfulness and
inexperience works beautifully in the more passionate sequences.
The styles of both versions of 'Romeo and Juliet' are in some ways
dissimilar. Zeffirelli's style is very conformist, classical as well
as peaceful. He wants the audience to listen carefully to the words of
the prologue and wanted his version to be indisputable. Luhrmann's on
the other hand is very contemporary. Luhrmann has created a film that
is very exhilarating. Through his updating reconstruction of the
prologue, he creates an eccentric film that applies to young modern
spectators. Luhrmann modernises 'Romeo and Juliet'. This contrast to
the Zeffirelli's version, which is Elizabethan and intended for a more
grown up and mature audience.
Luhrmann directs the opening scene in a very original and advanced
way, different from Zeffirelli's version. The setting of the two films
are contrasting. Zeffirelli's version is situated in a relaxing
atmosphere of Verona in the 16th century. While Zeffirelli maintains
Shakespeare's traditional setting and costume, Luhrmann updates his
dressing and setting to the 20th century. Luhrmann was determined to
devise a "created world". Luhrmann has a futuristic urban backdrop of
Verona Beach USA to exaggerate the chic modern look. Luhrmann tries to
modernise the original setting and immerse his spectators into another
world. This is distinct in style and set in a world of aggression and
religion. On the other hand, Zeffierlli's version is medieval and
pastoral set in an ancient Italian city with cobblestone streets and
Sir Lawrence Olivier reads Zeffirelli's narration. The tone of the
narrator sounds calm, masculine and very traditional. It sounds like a
bedtime story trying to soothe the audience. Zeffirelli focuses on
familiarising his audience with the setting of the film. In stark
contrast, an African American female reads Luhrmann's narration. The
TV changes channel to a news report, immediately recognised as the
prologue of the play. The verbal style of the film is set as the
female anchorwoman reads the prologue's original text in the tone of a
journalistic contemporary reportage in which we are accustomed to
hearing the news of tragedies in modern life. From the onset,...