Romeo and Juliet - Sample Essay

Compare the interpretation of two film versions of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet. ‘ Analyse, review and comment on how the directors Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann use cinematic techniques to convey particular meaning to the audience. Having studied the openings of two film versions, the two directors Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann, show they interpret the play differently because of the way they see different meanings in them. By interpreting the play differently, it also means the audience pick up a different meaning. Every image seen in the beginning decides whether the audience should continue with watching the film.

But what makes a film so engaging? Every image and sound is chosen deliberately by the director to signify specific things. Looking further into this, comparing both Zeffirelli and Luhrmanns introduction, we can see the different uses of cinematic technique used, and the particular meaning that comes across from it. I can already see from the introduction to the film that Baz Luhrmann is an adventurous director. He uses different cinematic techniques and although the genre of the play is a romantic, Luhrmann displays it as a traumatic story.

However, from Zeffirellis’, it is more traditional, filmed using the original costumes and settings as at the time of when the play was being written. From seeing this, I can now look into more detail at how this idea has come across to me. Both sets of the film versions begin with the prologue, which sets the scene of the play, in this case, the film. Luhrmanns interpretation of the prologue is presented in an interesting way, showing lots of meaning behind it. A news reporter reads out the prologue as if it is breaking news, showing that this story is a tragic, and so disastrous that it is being shown on TV for all to see.

The TV is seen small and as the camera zooms in you see a closer view. As the camera zooms in it almost has the effect of the audience zooming nearer to the TV screen, the effect of almost falling off their chairs, showing that the film is so engaging, even at the very earliest part of the film. This is very important in a film, because otherwise the audience won’t want to watch any further. At the very end of the prologue that is spoken, the camera zooms in close to the TV screen at the very last words: ‘Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage.

‘ But from this stage it then leads to very powerful music as it zooms out into a different shot of the location of the film, in this case it is Verona Beeches in America. In this shot, what are seen are a statue of Jesus in the centre and two skyscrapers on whether side that are very similar. The two skyscrapers represent the two houses of Capulets and Montagues, ‘two households, both alike in dignity. ‘ And the statue of Jesus represents the religious aspect, which in some way joins both families together.

During this time the powerful music is still playing, conveying a feeling that is more scary, violent and destructive rather than romantic, which is the main genre of the play. This shows that the rest of the film will have the genre of more violence than romance. This makes the audience see the film in a different way, which is exciting because this wasn’t being expected. The powerful music quietens down, jut so that it is still heard in the background as a voice speaks out the prologue again as the images are seen. With the prologue being repeated, this time you get to hear the words whilst seeing what is happening.

During this time there are flashing images, some of which consist of moving images, and others words printed on the screen. The images consist of shots from the film, showing helicopters, fire, people, etc. All these images show the destruction that occurs throughout the play. This is important because today, films have increased in violence, and this is what the audience today find engaging. Having words printed on the screen has a good effect. The words are printed in white on a black background, making the important words stand out, which sticks in the audiences’ head. Just before the end of the prologue, it introduces the characters.

When reading the Shakespeare’s play, the first reaction any member of the audience has on is it that they dislike it because of the confusion. To overcome this problem, Luhrmann zooms in on the character and has a freeze frame, with the characters name beneath and their relation to either Romeo or Juliet. This helped me a lot when watching the film with the confusion, and by doing this I think that the audience enjoyed it more, because they feel the director thinks about the audience first. As the speakers voice ends, the sound increases in volume and also in speed, with the images flashing faster with the timing of the music.

When I had watched this, I was engaged from the start, the flashing images where mixed up in my mind, which made me want to carry on watching to see if I could make sense of them, my heart beating faster as the images did. I think this is a great effect as it gives great anxiety to the audience. And with a quick ending of the prologue, it titles the film and goes straight into the first scene. Being a modern version, it weren’t surprising to see the modern technology such as cars and the fashion sense to be ‘normal’. A modern film is attracted to the audience more than the older versions because of this.

With the slide transition into the next scene, it skips a few lines and goes straight into Gregorys’ line ‘A dog of the house of Montague moves me. ‘ Music is played in the background, quite modern, they are in the car laughing and fooling around, and again the director introduces them as the Montague boys. From this we can see that the Montagues are just young men fooling around, not caring about anything. It then goes on to the Montague boys arriving at the petrol station, and again shows religious elements such as a cross in the car window.

As Benvolio exits the car he takes part or Gregorys line and says ‘The quarrel is between our masters’ and Gregory replies with the end of his line ‘and us their men’. This makes Benvolio look like a peacemaker, by saying his part of the line is telling us that the argument is between their masters, meaning they should stay out of it because it is not of their business, but with Gregorys reply, it is as if they should fight for them. This effect is given because of the way that the director has swapped the lines around. Also, the director has swapped round the characters.

In the original play it is the Capulets that enter with the starting lines. This lets the audience wonder why the director has done this, but it is just his interpretation of the play. An introduction to the Capulets is in the next part of the scene, where they seem much more powerful. The difference is seen between the two houses by the clothes that they are wearing. The Capulets are wearing dark, Mexican kind of clothes whereas the Montagues are wearing brightly coloured Hawaiian shirts, which add to their foolish personalities.

This is the idea given to me when the Montagues seem a lot more scared when they enter. The lead up to the fight takes quite a while because it goes into great detail as it introduces it. When Benvolio enters again, when the fight is about to start, he seems a lot more powerful than the other Montague boys, as if he is the leader, but then again so does Tybalt when he enters very calmly, lighting a cigarette. It would look rather odd if they entered in the fighting scene with swords in a modern film, which meant that it was very clever and interesting how the director used guns, naming them swords.

For example when Benvolio enters, it zooms in on the gun that he has which engraved upon it are the words ‘9mm gun’. When Benvolio says, ‘I do but keep the peace, put up thy sword or manage to part these men away with me’ it makes him seem scared, as though he does not want to fight, but to have peace. But Tybalt does want to fight when he replies how he hates the word peace. As he is saying this, I have noticed that they zoom in on the characters faces, preferably where the eyes are to show the emotion from it. This lets the audience know that something big is about to happen.

During this time also, music is being played, not the usual modern music as before, but more the western music, with the sound of metal and tin, the clunk from the Capulets shoes and the sound of metal swinging from a sign saying ‘add fuel to your fire’, meaning you add violence to the quarrel. From then on, begins the fight, again western music playing, sounds of bullets going etc. When the Montague boys leave without Benvolio, this is where the highest point of the violence begins, when Tybalt drops the flame into the petrol, causing a massive explosion, where the fire represents destruction.

From the fires smoke it montages into the next scene where it again shows the two skyscrapers where the Jesus statue is situated in the middle. It then quickly goes to different shots of helicopters etc, as was seen in the prologue of flashing images, which then leads to Tybalt and Benvolio where they are standing, gunpoint to each other, and from above are the words from the Prince telling them to put down their weapons. The Prince seems quite powerful enough to stop the fight, but he is only seen as a chief of the police rather than a prince.

When the prince then tells them off, it is set in a courtroom, again showing that the prince is quite powerful, but also showing that the fight was also very extraordinary because it is taken into the courts hands. The end of the scene shows already how the film will go on: destructive, violent and adventurous, rather than romantic. This film version was very entertaining and engaging, and from this I am sure that the audience will want to carry on watching it. There are a lot of cinematic techniques used and this engages the audience.

Zeffirellis version conveys a different meaning towards the audience. The clip is much shorter compared to the Luhrmann version, this is because the introduction to the fight is shorter in this version; the fight gets right to the point. The prologue, again, is spoken to set the scene. In this version it is not repeated twice, but spoken once as it introduces and sets the location. It is more traditional; it is set in Verona in Italy. The voice that speaks the prologue is much more calmer, and it does not seem as destructive, but more soft, calm and romantic type of music is played in the background.

There isn’t much of a religious aspect in this version, not to the extent as was seen with Luhrmann. A close up of the sun may symbolise the aspect of it in the beginning, but there isn’t much shown as the film progresses. When the prologue is introduced on this one it isn’t attracted to the audience as much. There isn’t as much action; it is a simple start, although this has a good effect because the action comes later on afterwards. With the audience expecting it to be quite boring and calm, when the fight does occur, it livens it up and the audience find it unexpected.

From the quite and peacefulness of the music in the prologue, suddenly changes and instead of repetition like Luhrmann did, it goes straight into the story. The market square- noisy, busy and very public, this is where the fight is set. The loudness of everyone in the streets shows that this version is much more public, so the fight will include a large variety of different people. Then enter the Capulets. Zeffirelli has kept to the script, because this was his interpretation to the play. The costumes are certainly different to those of Luhrmanns, because of the time difference.

Although, the two houses appear again with different colours, to let the audience know which family is which. The Capulets appear in much brighter colours such as yellows and oranges whereas the Montagues appear in the darker colours such as navy blue and black. The introduction to the fight is much quicker. They Capulets enter with the line spoken by Gregory ‘the quarrel is between our masters and us their men. ‘ Again, Zeffirelli has skipped lines and got onto the most important ones that give the most effect. The Montagues introduction, this time it makes the Montagues seem much weaker than the Capulets.

The cause of the fight where the Capulets bite their thumb seems much more of a conversation then Luhrmanns version. With Luhrmann the characters shout at each other because they feel nervous. There is a little incident in this film that introduces the fight, which is when the Capulets kick a member of the Montague family. From this point the fight begins. This time there is a lot more that occurs. They use the traditional weapons of swords and the people in the market square are also involved. Stalls are turning, women screaming, and babies crying. The audience can see from this that it is also very traumatic, with lots of people involved.

When Benvolio enters he looks young and hopeless and when he says his lines it is as if he is telling everyone to stop the fight because they are forbidden to do so and when more Capulets enter, he seems scared when he tells them to put up their swords. The audience think this because of the way the lines are spoken. Benvolio spoke with his head bowed down, spoken quietly etc, which makes Tybalt look so much stronger and powerful. With their one on one fight, Tybalt wins which again shows their power. More Capulets and more Montagues are called to help with the fight.

This turns out to be chaotic with every one involved. Buildings begin to fall apart and it is very traumatic. This would have taken only one shot when it was being filmed because of the way that the people destroyed the set. When the prince enters, he is the actual prince to the country, unlike in Luhrmann where he is the chief police. Because of this comparison, the prince seems much powerful and high up, as he enters in wealthy clothes and on horseback. He speaks out his lines to everyone in the market square whereas in Luhrmann it is much more enclosed as he tells it to them face to face.

There aren’t as many camera techniques used in the Zeffirelli version because of at the time this was made, technology wasn’t as good as what it was at the time of the making of Luhrmanns film. But this has a good effect because some areas of the audience would prefer this; the older area of them would, so therefore the target audience would be more the adults.

But with all the camera techniques involved in Luhrmanns very engaging film, the target audience is much more younger, (which is why I feel that the Luhrmann version was more appealing to me and was more engaging.) this is also because of the characters involved. With Leonardo Di Caprio involved, it got more of the audience members wanting to watch Luhrmanns version, therefore proving that the type of people chosen to play each character is very important.

Both films have their advantages and disadvantages; they are both engaging in different ways and had different meanings that have come across from each of them. But because they are so completely different, it clearly shows how the directors’ interpretation of the play was different and showed throughout the film.