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Comparing The Opening Scene Of The Franco Zeffirelli And Baz Luhrmann Film Versions Of Romeo And Juliet

2124 words - 8 pages

Comparing the Opening Scene of the Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann Film Versions of Romeo and Juliet

Both directors present their interpretation of the epic tale of love,
reflecting their attitudes towards play and playwright. Luhrmann
tackled the task of bringing the play up to date in 1997 and getting
young people interested. Zeffirelli’s love for Shakespeare’s works
shines through and so he has done little tampering. In fact Zeffirelli
gives the film an air of nobility – like the youths’ death was sad,
but a fitting end. Luhrmann conveys absolute disgust with the violence
and needless death.

Zeffirelli’s film is set in Italy imitating Shakespeare’s medieval
Verona effectively in the landscape, traditional piazzas and climate,
noticeable in the fight when dust obscures the action. Zeffirelli
takes advantage of this authenticity; showing it off, throughout the
prologue, using shots of the misty city, which sharply focus just
before the scene relocates to the piazza. Zeffirelli’s setting allows
artefacts used to be realistic. This is shown in the bell tower,
showing the spread of violence and contributing to the cacophony, and
in the dramatic arrival of the Prince coming to the rescue.

The costumes conform to the setting, conveying a tribal theme with
contrasting colours – yellow/red versus dark greys. The characters are
defined largely by speech and acting, Benvolio acts sheepish when
questioned by Tybalt and the latter is aggressive; satisfied when he
draws blood. This play has many opposite characters, for example
Benvolio, the peacemaker and Tybalt the warmonger. We are also given
the opposites of Romeo and his parents who differ in age and outlook;
son disgusted by the brawl and father charging into it. The Prince is
portrayed as the mediator between the two houses. The romance of this
version shows itself in the extras; figures such as a running woman
trying to protect her baby.

Language is vital in Zeffirelli’s film and is emphasised with the
implication that the film expects you to have read the play. The
prologue is done via a male voiceover, dominating the background and
causing suspense it is after all a tragedy. The pace of Zeffirelli’s
film is also slower - the speech being well pronounced, noticeable in
the rounding of the vowels during the Prince’s speech. The
paralanguage is more prominent, the characters imbuing tone and body
language with appropriate emotion; this is apparent in Benvolio’s
defensiveness when questioned by Tybalt and Tybalt’s aggression in
lines 61-63. Zeffirelli has kept the editing of the text to a minimum
effectively using the film as a recreation of the stage.

Camera is a major part in any film and Zeffirelli uses a small variety
of shots. Beginning with aerial shots and panoramas of languid Verona
to set a romantic atmosphere as...

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