The Opening of Baz Luhrman's Film Version of Romeo and Juliet
Franco Zeffirelli’s 1969 version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was actually
filmed on location in Verona and is set in the 15th century, when the
story of Romeo and Juliet was meant to happen. Its opening prologue is
very plain and simple, there are just two long shots and the
voiceovers voice speaks very slowly.
The first shot is a long shot of medieval Verona on a misty morning,
the camera pans around to the river and tilts up and zooms in slowly
into the sun, the name ‘William Shakespeare’ then appears below it –
this could signify that he is ‘looking down’ over what is happening in
Verona. The second shot simply shows an empty market place within town
walls and here the film title: ‘Romeo & Juliet’ appears, then the
camera pans a little to the left and we hear horses and wagons coming
into the market square to set up. The voiceover’s voice is quite deep,
calm, and slow; underneath is medieval music that is slow and
mournful, this could be romantic music.
Franco Zeffirelli’s version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will not appeal to
the teenagers and the youth of today plainly because it is too slow,
calm, and simple; nowadays teens expect fast and adrenalin-rushing
films which are very complex – such as Baz Lurhmann’s ‘Romeo and
Baz Lurhmann’s 1997 version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a lot more
complex than Franco Zeffirelli’s 1969 version and also greatly
attracts the teens of today. The prologue gets repeated verbally two
times, so that the modern audience understand it.
We see a TV surrounded by a black void at the start; this attracts the
audience’s attention to the TV, which then gets zoomed in on and as it
turns on static appears. The effect of showing a TV is that it tells
the audience about the modernisation of this ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and
also nowadays most people watch TV and are surrounded by the media –
Baz Lurhmann is tapping into the audience’s everyday life.
After the static, a black woman news reporter comes on. This makes the
film more modern and multicultural, also she speaks with an American
accent showing that its set somewhere in America.
Behind the news reporter is an image of a broken wedding ring, and
below shows a caption stating ‘star-crossed lovers’. ‘Star-crossed
lovers’ is a line from the prologue, and basically sums up what the
play is about; ‘star-crossed lovers’ means that the two people in love
(Romeo and Juliet) have everything against them being in love, their
stars are against them (their star-signs clash); if however some
people have not understood this phrase, then the image above (broken
ring) explains it, i.e. the ring represents a wedding ring and also
‘never ending love; being split in half represents that it (i.e. their
wedding, love) has ended, or couldn’t carry on.