Shakespeare is a difficult text for most 16 year olds to understand. His use of Shakespearian phrasing and poetic iambic pentameter makes the text difficult.
We have been studying Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet. Film directors like Baz Luhrman and Franco Zefferelli have borne this in mine when making films of the play and have adopted different strategies to make the play more accessible for teenagers.Franco Zefferelli’s film was made in 1968 in a traditional medieval setting in which Shakespeare set the play. Zefferelli’s career as an opera director is put to spectacular use in the movie by his use of medieval clothing and props and music, which creates a very visual image of the Shakespearian times.To attract younger audiences he uses very young actors in Romeo and Juliet to play lead role. The older actors were established Shakespearean actors who had long experience in playing Shakespearian roles.Zefferelli focuses on the main action in the play cutting the secondary stories the more reflective scenes.
However Zefferelli expands Act 3 scene 1 by extending the fighting much more than it is in the play.Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo and Juliet was set in a modern American society with modern clothing and buildings. We see traffic, police helicopters flying, tall skyscrapers, road and gang casualties and scenes of overall chaos. This world that the viewers are shown is overwhelmed with violence which emphasizes the initial fight scene in Act 1 Scene1, which is much like the beginning scene of the Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. However Baz Luhrman exploits and emphasises the violence in his movie and creates a gun instead of a sword culture, so it is more appealing.
This shows Baz Luhrman made a much greater effort to make the play accessible and appeal to a much younger and wider audience.In his movie you can differentiate which characters belong to which family. Baz Luhrman does this by dressing the two families in different styles of clothes. The Montague’s with light hair and brightly coloured surfing clothes. The Capulet’s with dark hair and dark leather clothes.
Both the families are like gangs with their own identity and they are resembled like the Mafia gang culture.Luhrman also substitutes the sword for the gun in his version of Romeo and Juliet. To make it appeal to a wider audience and therefore makes it much more accessible for teenagers because the use of guns is linked more with the youth culture today.In Luhrman’s film the images and references are much more recognisable to a younger audience. There are references to soap opera, gangster films and westerns all of which are used to help young people understand Shakespeare’s words. The film adopts a much more frenetic style of filming which adds to the tension and creates edgier aspects to the film.
It also prevents young people getting lost in the film and becoming bored.I will be focusing on Act 3 Scene 1. This scene is pivotal to the rest of the play, as without it there would be romance rather than tragedy.In Act 3 Scene 1 Baz Luhrman makes the weather an effective device in symbolising and reflecting the mood in the scene.
The day starts off scorching hot but there is still an element of tension. This gives the audience a sense of fear and anticipation that something will happen. As the Capulet’s stride towards the Montague’s the weather begins to change the sky clouds over and the whole place seems to darken the whole setting-a technique to signify something dire will occur.
Zefferelli also places heavy emphasis on the weather. The lighting is very bright so it emphasises the heat of the day, directing Mercutio to mop his face with a handkerchief. The humidity of the scene is pivotal because it causes Mercutio to climb into a fountain to cool off, thereby providing an opportunity for Tybalt to splash him, and start the fight that results in both their deathsBoth directors use a very hot setting.
Zefferelli plays Act 1 Scene 3 market square. This was effective because it was set where the play is. This helped the film fit the script and was appropriate. He also uses deserted surrounding, which represents the heat of the day, and dusty streets like old westerns. This all adds effect of the time that it is taking place. When the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt starts, the fight has a very jocular approach to it with laughing and boys having fun.
This also helps the viewer understand the death was an accident and was a mistake.However Luhrman sets his scene on the shores of Verona Beach which moves on to an old theatre which is broken in half, this reminds the viewers of the original play which was set on the stage. Also, by putting the stage in the scene where the fight is happening, Luhrman might be trying to illustrate that the whole of these two families lives is on a stage, where audiences watch what is going to and about to happen in the play. Luhrman’s change of setting helps create a more enticing fight and keeps the viewers interested.Sound effects are always vital in films like this to enhance the dramatic effect and build the tension. Luhrman uses thunder to create tension. The sound is used to create the unsettling atmospheric mood of danger and loss throughout the whole scene.
The first piece of music you really notice is when the Capulet’s Approach the Montague’s on the beach it is best described as “gangster music” its quite quiet but noticeable and makes you feel that on of the gangs will lash out at any moment. There is then a change in music when Romeo enters the scene there is a sudden change in music to represent Romeos character, peaceful and calm.However when Romeo is in his car chasing Tybalt the sound of his engine drowns anything else out even though there is some background music. When Romeo and Tybalt are fighting under the statue there is music but it soon fades out to silence as Tybalt drops his weapon. All that can be heard after this is Romeo pick up the gun and shoot Tybalt after this he drops the weapon to the floor and looks up aghast at the statue above loud dramatic classical music is played; this all adds to the growing tension and leaves the audience in shock. When Romeo drops the gun it drops in slow motion and silence but the sound of it hitting the floor is very clear and loud, this helps the audience what he has done. The sound effects and music helps teenagers to get more in to the movie. The music is appealing to wider audiences and helps audiences get in to the movieIn Zefferelli’s play music isn’t used greatly, it is used in short amounts at key points to help build tension and convey feeling, like at the point where we find out Mercutio is dead, there is a short piece of tragic music, this helps the audience understand that the play has changed from a romance to a tragedy.
Most of the others sounds in the play are of speech, because even though Zefferelli focuses on the action and draws out the fight scene, the action never draws away from the words, they are an important part of his play. There are church bells tolling in the background at the beginning of the scene, a reminder of the marriage that has just taken place. Bells also close the scene, being audible just after the death of Tybalt. To show turning points in the play.Perhaps the most important aspect of this film is the way Luhrman uses his camera angles to add tension and drama. In Luhrman’s play the camera angles are changed much more rapidly. Quick movements across the camera and panning help indicate the speed and chaos of the scene. Luhrman has the ability to make people look powerful or weak and does this very well.
When the Capulet’s approach the Montague’s they show low angle shots on both Tybalt and Mercutio who are the two most powerful characters in the play. This low angle shot make the person look powerful and creates a kind of showdown atmosphere between Mercutio and Tybalt also in this part of the scene it shows close ups on the other Montague’s and shows their intense fear of the Capulet’s.Later on during the fight between Romeo and Tybalt it shows a close up of Tybalts face to show his intense hatred of Romeo a close up of Romeo’s face is also shown he seems to want to be at peace with the Capulets due to his recent marriage with Juliet.
When Tybalt strikes Romeo to the ground a high angle shot looks down on Romeo and makes him look helpless. A low angle shot is then shown to make Tybalt look powerful .Later on as Mercutio punches Tybalt to the ground a high angle shot makes Tybalt look weak.When Romeo chases Tybalt in his car a close up is shown on Romeo’s face entranced with rage. Another shot goes to a close up on Tybalt who looks guilty and repentant what he has done has just sunk in. A high angle shot shows the cars as Romeo rams the Back of Tybalt’s. Once out of the car both men scramble for Tybalt’s gun and Tybalt picks it up first.
Then he points the gun at Romeo who has lost any care for his own life because he is so enraged and he walks towards and forces Tybalt’s gun to his head. This is a very ironic piece of film as Tybalt is the man with the gun but Romeo is the more powerful of the two a high angle shot shows this.When Romeo picks up the gun Tybalt had dropped and fires into Tybalt, close ups on Romeo’s face show he is crying as he fires the gun into Tybalt who’s face is shown in slow motion as his body jerks with the force of the bullets hitting him A high angle shot shows Tybalt floating lifelessly in the water underneath the statue then a high angle shot shows a repentant and tearful Romeo staring up at the statue.
You see all the anger drain from him and this is replaced by guilt.In the Zefferelli version, longer camera shots are taken in a much more conventional way. This is less interesting but gives more depth to each take, because of this the pace is much slower which makes the film less gripping. Blurred effects are also used later to show more clearly the growing tension.
After having seen both versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet I think that each film was made for a very different reason. I think that Zefferelli’s film was made to be as accurate to the original as possible but I think that Luhrman wanted to modernise the play for a modern audience.However I think Baz Luhrmans production of Romeo and Juliet is more appealing to younger audiences because it is contemporary to their time. They can relate to this because they already know about settings and situation in the film which may interest them. I think it is easier to interpret the meaning of the difficult text and the use of guns and other modern props make it so.