Analyse the Opening and Ballroom Scenes In the Two Versions of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet has been made into many plays and a few films. The two films I am going to analyse are Zeffareli’s production (1968) and Luhrmann’s production (1997). I am focusing on the opening and the ballroom scenes of the films. The directors play a major part in the films. Zeffareli’s production is for a more mature audience. He expected his audience to have already read the play and to be familiar with the characters. It is more of a romantic genre because of the music and the way that it is portrayed.

In Luhrmann’s production however, he clearly introduces the characters and this is more understandable for an audience who have never read or seen Romeo and Juliet before. This version is more of an action / western genre because of the battles being emphasized and the western music at the beginning. How the film language is used makes the production all worth while. All aspects including location, costume, camera angles and lighting contribute to how the films are portrayed. I will explain each of the film aspects throughout this essay. Firstly, in order to have a film, you need a location.

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Whilst Shakespeare chose ‘fair Verona’ a beautiful town in Italy, Luhrmann chose Mexico. It was then still seen as a mysterious place that is still unknown. It was the perfect location as he could adapt it into a more ‘cooler’ Verona. He decided on Verona beach which had a violent, sex appeal, which made the younger audience appreciate it. The setting also shows there is going to be plenty of action. This film language is used to convey meaning by showing that Verona beach was an exotic and lively place, full of community spirit. Although Verona in Italy wouldn’t be exotic, it would still have a sense of community spirit.

This was shown in Zeffareli’s version. The market place was full of people talking and communicating. Baz Luhrmann wanted to get the prologue over clearly. He did this by repeating it three times but the voice overs also played a major part. Combining voice overs with the pictures on screen really helped Luhrmann’s audience to understand the concept of the film and what was coming towards them in the main body of the film. Zeffareli’s version only has one way of showing the prologue (voice – over) and this to him would be very important as he is only getting it across once.

Voice overs are used to convey meaning by helping you understand the concept of the film. It shows the final touch in the prologue of the Luhrmann’s production because if a teenager sees the film trailer and likes the sound of it then they would want to see the movie itself. In this case the voice over would be used more for advertising purposes. To keep an audience interested, a soundtrack is used. In Luhrmann’s production we hear helicopters and car horns in the background. We also hear gunshots and the swift actions of the actors were being emphasized and a breezy sound when the fire starts in the petrol station.

In Zeffareli’s production we hear chattering in the background, horns and bells, horses and mothers screaming with their babies. The differences between the sounds show which the modern production is and which the older production is. The soundtrack conveys meaning by showing that the Capulets and the Montague’s aren’t just causing havoc between themselves, but also on the whole of the town and the gunshots show that’s its violent and other people are going to be hurt, either emotionally or physically. The next most important aspect is the music.

In order to create the atmosphere that the director requires, music is used. For example, if the director wants to create a Romantic atmosphere then he would use slow, classical music. Or if he wanted to create an eerie atmosphere a very high pitched type of music would be used. Luhrmann uses western music in the garage to show a tense atmosphere and that a battle is about to take place. He also uses action music to show the extent of the violence and he uses romantic music whenever Romeo and Juliet meet up to show there is love in the atmosphere.

Zeffareli however, uses mostly romantic, classical music. There are slight references to action music but not as much as what Luhrmann uses. Dialogue can be used in many ways by the director. It could be to portray a character or to give the audience a stereotypical view or the character. Baz Luhrmann can’t use these as he is using the Shakespearian language, so he can’t change it. But William Shakespeare has given us a stereo typical view of the characters by making them speak in different ways. The Capulets tone is sinister and unique and almost makes the audience cautious of them.

Montagues however, have a more relaxed tone that makes them sound a bit more cool and confident of themselves. The costumes also give us a stereotypical view of the characters. In Luhrmann’s costumes, the Capulets are more sophisticated and this shows they are confident with the way they look and their style. They also look a bit more richer compared to the Montagues. They are a lot more relaxed and opt for the more ‘beach wear style’. They look a bit poor (although they are not) and have a casual look to them.

Costume is used by the director to convey meaning by giving us an overview of the situation and how both sides (the Montague’s and the Capulet’s) are so different. Camera angles make the film either interesting or a complete failure. In Luhrmann’s and Zeffareli’s case, they have made it very interesting . In Luhrmann’s production, the fast shots contrast with the freeze frames to show tension in the atmosphere. And there are lots of birds eye views of the action at the garage. Also there are major close up shots to show the fear in the actors eyes.

This is more effective the having a far shot. In Zeffareli’s version, there are big close ups and medium close ups where action is involved. There are long shots to show the extent of the damage done on the village during the battle and there are plenty of shots in which a moving actor walks into the space. Baz Luhrmann uses the camera angles to convey meaning by giving it a hidden meaning, Whilst the shots are moving and giving you fascinating views of the characters, it is making you want to keep watching it and explore the differences in the characters.