Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story of all times, and each generation needs a version of their own, which they can feel identified with. The same play can be interpreted in a totally different way, according to the moral values, the relevant events and the point of view of the time in which it is performed. Thus, two films have been made, based on this masterpiece of English Literature. The first version was filmed in 1968, directed by Zeffirelli, while the second one, whose director is Baz Luhrmann, was made in the late nineties. Needless to say, there are many differences between the two of them, concerning mainly the ways in which certain topics are dealt with.
First of all, the most striking features of both movies as soon as they start is the enormous differences in setting. On one hand, the old version is set in Verona as it must have been in the time in which Shakespeare imagined it, and the costumes and hairdos coincide with this. On the other hand, in the new version Verona is a modern town, one that can be found in the nineties, and this is also reflected in the costumes, which are normal clothes of the previous decade.
Amazing as it may seem, both films follow Shakespeare's script perfectly, and the impression that is left in the viewer is utterly different, though. This might be due to the different performances and direction, together with a different selection of passages to be included. For instance, Romeo' s former love is not mentioned in the old version up until his conversation with the friar, while in the modern one, the topic is thoroughly dealt with from the beginning.
From the first fight in the streets of Verona, a great distinction can be made, since the same swords that the actual Montagues and Capulets would have used, are drawn by the actors directed by Zeffirelli, while in the modern version the actors use guns. In both of them, after this episode the prince puts a ban on fighting in public places, which will have crucial consequences for the main characters.
On the topic of characters, it should be highlighted that the choice of the couple in both cases is probably based in their physical aspect and their young looks, not to mention their excellent performances. Their extreme youth and the idea of very early marriage is perfectly conveyed in the two of them. Another character to be mentioned, from a comparison point of view, and considering the criterion that is applied to choose the actor, is Mercutio. Luhrmann casts a black actor, who is probably considered to be the best choice for this character in the 90s, bearing Mercutio's personality in mind. A black actor is completely out of the question in the late sixties, when the struggles for racial equality were taking their first steps. Therefore, Mercutio is...