Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli and Luhrman

In this essay I will be looking at how the two directors Luhrman and Zeffirelli produced the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet. These films were made about 30 years apart of each other, and are very different but both worked and were very popular with the audience of the time they were made. I will start by looking at what the play is about and what it has to offer to a director trying to make a successful movie. Then will look at both the films separately starting with Luhrman and then I will look at them together.

When you look at the story of Romeo and Juliet it has so many things in it that would attract a young audience. If you think about it most people who go to the cinema are 14-25year olds so film directors will need to make a film that people in this age range would want to see. Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays every one knows the basic story of it and most children will of studied it at school during their time there. This play has in it true love, tragedy and suspense. The plot is fast moving and will keep the viewer griped if the film is done well this is the kind of scrip all directors would want.

Both these directors were very successful in the way they made Romeo and Juliet into a film but as you will see they both did it in very different ways. Luhrman’s opening scene starts with a flickering TV screen, where on it there is a woman newsreader, reading the prologue of the script. This automatically will draw a modern day audience in and can relate to seeing someone reading the news and the TV screen. We are then taken suddenly to a deep mans voice is it very deep and is reading the prologue again, then a change in the music and fast moving clips where we see what we are later to learn after watching the film is the end of the film.

We are also at this point introduced to some of the main characters by freeze frames and their names and who they are appearing beside them. During this we are shown news paper headlines which put a big enthuses on the words ‘star cross lovers take there lives. ‘ All the way through this we don’t see Romeo or Juliet. I think this is because he wants to set the background for their lives so we know about their families and but we haven’t seen them. I also think he has done this because it makes you think more about the two characters and you can build up your own images of them before you see them.

There is a change in the music and we are now outside in the back of the Montague’s car. They are dressed in bright beach type clothes. We are told who they are by a freeze frame and writing next to them saying ‘the Montague boys’ these freeze frames are really good it introduces the audience to the characters in away you see at the beginning of soaps and things this is something people can relate to. I think he does this because this way you aren’t confused with the two different families straight away we are told who they are which family they belong to and we know what they look like.

If you look at the first few minutes of the Zeffirelli version its very different. It’s set in the time the play was written with traditional clothing. A man speaks the prologue again but this time it was a much more calming voice. The setting was the market place with a lot of people who weren’t the main characters we are not introduced to the characters at all and are throne in with the dialogue straight away. Where as with the Luhrman’s version we have the long intro.

There are two big differences in the two films the first one is that in Luhrman’s the Montague’s are dressed in bright clothes where as the Capulet’s are dressed in dark back clothes, where as Zeffirelli has done it the other way around with the Montague’s in the dark clothes and the Capulet’s in the bright. I think that this indicates who the directors think is the bad side. With Luhrman’s version he has the Montague’s dressed in bright clothes so I think that he sees them as the good side. He has put the Capulet’s in dark clothes and I think he must see them as the bad side.

Zeffirelli had this the other way around so I believe he must of seen the Montague’s as the bad side and the Capulet’s as the good side. The second difference is even though both directors have followed the script exactly Luhrman has changed around who bites their thumb. In the script it is the Capulet’s who start the dialogue but Luhrman has changed this so that the Montages are the ones who bite their thumb at the Capulet’s. The only reason I can see for him doing this is that he must think that this is way it fits in with what he is trying to put across in the opening scene.

The way Luhrman has directed and choreographed the first scene I find amazing. After the first bit of dialogue is over the scene starts to move very fast we are given a lot of puns, the film is set now in modern days so instead of using swords they use guns but on the guns is written sword. The gunfight is very western style with the quick movements and the jumping through the air. Luhrman uses speeding up and slowing down of the film to get the audience’s attention on what he wants them to pay attention to.

The fighting is set in the gas station during the fighting we see the spilling of the fuel and I think as a viewer you know what is going to happen, so when the lit cigar is dropped and the fuel station goes up in flames the audience anticipated it. Luhrman keeps the fighting so that it is only the main characters. It is just the main Montague characters and main Capulet’s characters fighting where as Zeffirelli has set it so we watch the fighting from a birds eye view also there is lots of people fighting and only on a few actions are we just watching the main characters fighting.

Both times the fighting is stopped by the prince which is who we would call the chief policeman. In both films when we first see him he is shown as being higher up than everyone around him. Zeffirelli has him on horseback, where as Luhrman has him in a police helicopter. The big difference in the ways this bit is done is that in Zeffirellis he is talking to everyone at the same time in the place where it all happened. Where as Luhrman film it’s at what we think is a police interview room, and it is just the main members of the two families this way it makes it more formal and draws your attention in to this more than the other.

Even thought both of these films are set and made in very different ways they both had a great impact on the audience of their time. The Zeffirelli was very modern in many ways it was the first film to star such young actors and actresses with the leading lady being only 16 this really shocked people in the time it was made where as to day we probably wouldn’t think anything of it. Both the films were aimed at the same age range but after watching them both as a 15 year old I find it more enjoyable to sit and watch the Luhrman film.

This shows how much different a 15 year old to day is to a 15 year old 30+ years ago. Think the reason I found Luhrman’s version so much easier to understand was because it was very visual and the ways that the characters spoke it came across as if it was the way they had always spoken so it flowed also everything that they were saying was acted out, by this I mean what they said didn’t really matter because you could get a clear idea of what was going on by the body language of the characters and by the way they were saying things the tone in there voices.

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