In this essay the opening sequences of the two versions of Shakespeare’s disastrous love story, “Romeo and Juliet” have been compared. The traditional and conventional version, which was made in 1968 in Italy, was directed by Franco Zeffirali, and the modernized and the updated version, was made by Baz Lurhmann in 1996 and is set in modern Verona Beach.Zeffirali’s version is a spectacular, although old-fashioned movie, which throws a net at traditional, middle aged and romantic people.
The characters of ‘Romeo’ and ‘Juliet’ were played by unknown characters at that time, Olivia Hussey (Juliet) and Leonard Whiting (Romeo). There is a comprehensive contrast between Zeffirali’s version and Lurhmann’s one, which presents itself as soon as the movies begin. Lurhmann’s version is an unconventional, modernised version of Shakespeare’s tragedy and it is specifically directed at a youthful audience.Even the characters are also aimed to grab the whim of its audience. In this version the character of Romeo is played by Leonardo Di Caprio, to target its youthful audience. Another element which probably has influenced in a big deal to attract and evocate the youngsters is the MTV style production in this version.
Lurhmann tried to create a twentieth century version of Shakespeare’s love story. Here in comparison to Zeffirali’s version, every thing has been updated; fast cars with rowdy engines are used rather than the old way, horses, or instead of swords and daggers, guns stand in for 99mm swords. This ideal idea results in a stunning modernized version of the old Shakespeare’s story.Before comparing the two versions, the importance of an opening sequence for a movie in general has to be discussed. The opening sequence of a movie introduces the audience to the setting, mode and situation on which the movie is based upon. It establishes the story of the film and attracts the attention of its audiences, so the opening sequence of a movie plays a crucial role to catch the spectators’ attention at the beginning until it finishes.The opening sequence of Zeffirali movie starts with high angle shot of the Italian scenery and an inspirational voice reads the famous prologue.
The opening sequence of this version begins in the medieval town market, where Capulet servants-dressed in bright clownish colours meet Montague servants dressed in dark and sombre clothes. After short period of joke and adversary talk, the Capulets provoke a fight. Benvolio, Montague and friend of Romeo, unsuccessfully tries to stop the fight. After a split second the town fills up with the scream and shout. A dual begins between Benvolio and Tybalt (Capulet and Juliet’s cousin) in the town centre Tybalt slashes Benvolio’s eye and the ringing of church bell calls on the other members of the families to join in the fight. The quarrel continues until the prince of Verona arrives on a horse and the town sinks in silence.
The prince reprimands the houses of the penalty for yet another civil fracas will be death.In this sequence, Zeffirali elaborately shows the audience the detestation between the two families. Dramatic tension increases gradually in this sequence by the slow and ordinary beginning to the breathtaking squabble. Therefore tension is build up in the audience.In Lurhmann’s version the famous prologue is represented by an anchorwoman on a television screen in a calm tone as the modern tragedy news, followed by the introduction of the actor’s and actress’s character, which makes the script much easier for the audience to follow. The film follows by showing the twin towers labelled Capulet and Montague next to each other, separated by a statue of Jesus. The scene immediately declares the idea of the antipathy between the two families and intimates them to us as two side of “devil”. This striking idea stresses the quarrelsome, furious and juvenile aspect of the play.
The film starts with the Montague boys who dressed in bright colours. They drive to a petrol station, where we are introduced to Capulets. At the blazing sunshine of a high noon in the petrol station, the boys from the two families meet each other. Tybalt, who glitters in his role as a vicious, mischievous and courageous character, declines the Benvolio’s attempt to prevent the coming disaster and the fight begins and makes an intensive anarchy around the scene.
After a fire begins in the gas station, the conflict develops and moves to the streets. Very quickly with appearance of police helicopters, the fight ends.The Zeffirali movie has a quite slow opening, in contrast to fast and furious opening of Lurhmann’s version. This version effects on its audiences by the lots happening at a fast pace in an up dated setting, which catches the viewers’ attention and makes them to focus on the events in the sequence.
Also the car chasing, gun fighting and the artistic aspects in this version contribute in this matter very effectively.”Romeo & Juliet” in Zeffirali’s version is set in 14th century Verona, in Italy. The opening sequence takes place in an early, bright and sunny afternoon in one of the medieval’s town market place, which strikes the spectators’ mind with the help of profuse settings and the way the characters are dressed in this version. By using swords, horses, church bell, market stalls, fruits and vegetables are used as the props, Zeffirali brings a realistic picture of Shakespearean’s medieval life on audience’s mind and because the movie presents the traditional and customary style of life, it captivates the viewers’ eyes adequately.
Lurhmann sets his movie in modern Verona beach, which is a created world. Lurhmann uses mixture of aspects from dissimilar periods as 1940s, 1970s and 1990s in his movie. The sequence happens in the early, warm and sunny afternoon in a petrol station.
In contrast to the Zeffirali’s customary and the original props, Fast cars, guns, lighter, helicopter and etc as the props in Lurhmann’s version.The conspicuous element of using the up-dated and modernized settings and props in Lurhmann’s version rather than the old ones makes the movie much more evocative for the young and artistic demanding individuals, and it helps them to draw in the movie.Zeffirali’s version of “Romeo & Juliet” compare to the other version is strongly realistic. Despite the unknown actors and actresses on that time, they cast in their roles perfectly.
Their body language, facial expression and tone of voice go along with the sequence’s events. One of the remarkable sample of actors, who marvellously infuses his emotion with an appropriate facial expression, body language and tone of voice to the viewers is Michael York, brilliances in the ferocious and malevolent character of Tybalt. He illustrates his enormous hatred of Montagues, when he talks to Benvolio. In Zeffirali’s version, original Shakespearian language is used as the dialogues but the actors and the actresses deliver it distinctly and clearly to make it easier fro the audience to follow the play.
Despite the Italian setting in this version, the way that the characters talk, dressed and their attitude are mostly in English way. In this version colour of customs are used to discriminate the Montagues and Capulets as well as their manners. The director characterises the Montagues as meek, dusky and solemn people by using dark and simple outfits fro them and unlikely Capulets are presented as joyful and jovial people by their clownish colourful customs.In Lurhmann’s version the prologue is being read by an anchorwoman on a television screen. This is one of the clever ideas that the director uses to make a distance from the common film conventions and also to modernize the old story. In Lurhmann’s version of “Romeo & Juliet” settings and props are updated as well as the actors’ attitudes and their general looking. They act their roles in harmony with the time and the place. They are dressed in normal and modern clothes rather than the customs in Zeffirali’s version.
Actors and actresses in this version use Shakespearian’s language, it seems to be a little bit modernized. The audience would think the director didn’t mean to use the original language in his movie but completely failed. Similar to Zeffirali’s version, Lurhmann uses different colours to make a distinction between the two families but the order of the actor’s appearance is changed in this version. In this version Montagues are presented as the out going and crazy people with their colourful outfits and Capulets are characterized as kind of gangster and dangerous people with their dark customs which mostly made of black leather with lots of metal garnish on them.The actors in both versions skilfully visualize their emotions in audience with appropriate facial expression, suitable body language and eligible tone of voice. Despite the unknown actors and actresses in Zeffirali’s version, they impress the viewers incredibly and with their high skilled casting, they make it easy for the audience to draw in the movie.
The actor and actresses in Lurhmann’s version are as good as the other version, especially the key element of Leonardo Di Caprio make the movie very attractive for the immature and star lover youths.We can not afford to disregard the conspicuous dissimilarity between the ways that camera has been used in two opening sequence. The camera shots in the opening sequence of Zeffirali’s version are less hasty and bewildering. As soon as the film starts, the realistic picture of medieval Italian’s everyday life is portrayed by the high angle shot of Verona followed by the medium shots which introduce the first characters in the market place. The part which the director delivers the brawl scene, the camera keeps changing its position and shoots from different angles. Here Zeffirali intends creating the genuine and the real picture of the fight and the deep abhorrence between the Montagues and Capulets in the audience’s mind. In purpose to convey the certain emotions and increase the tension, Benvolio, prince and Tybalt are subjected to get close-up shot in this sequence. The camera shots in this version establish the overall feeling and sentiments of the characters and because it doesn’t move so sudden, it allows the spectators to take in the movie.
Lurhmann’s version distinguishes itself by using a large variety of camera shots. With the help of modern technology, it charms the audience’s eyes. Additionally some camera tricks, optical effects and fast moving of camera bring the viewers on edge of their seats. On the contrary, Lurhmann uses lot of close-up shots in the sequence; actors’ face, part of their body, the accessories on their clothes, guns, sign in the petrol station, etc, which are aimed to captivate the audience. The zoom on Tybalt’s and Benvolio’s face when they fire their enormous disgust to each other or the camera focus on the “99 mm sword” on the guns can be mentioned as some of the evocative close-up shots in this opening sequence. The fast flow of the sequence suddenly breaks by a medium shot and allows the audience to settle down for a while. The opening sequence ends by a high angle shot which shows the overall riot followed the gruesome fight.Sound effect is one of the crucial elements of a movie and it has been used elaborately in both versions.
One of the successful elements in both opening sequences is the harmony of the action, background music and camera. Despite the apparent contrast, both directors effectively influence their audience. Zeffirali’s version stimulates the viewer right at the beginning of the movie by the soft and stirring background music of Nino Rota.
The gentle music slowly changes to dramatic as the action becomes faster. Within the brawl, screams, church bell, shouts, fanfares, the sound of swords, etc in company with, loud music, visualise the actual scene in audience’s mind and adequately take them in a motion. Also the silence in the breathtaking part of the fight between Benvolio and Tybalt plays a great role to make tension in audience.The modernized sound effects in Lurhmann’s version gather the immature youths. At the beginning, the movie is supported by effective loud heavy rock music. Lurhmann emphasises Montague character by their dress colours as well as the rock music which is for sort of crazy and outgoing peoples. The background music then follows by the western themed music in the petrol station, which reminds the audience of gun fights in western movies.
The main part of the tension in the fight scene is supplied by the extremely effective sound effects such as gunshots, helicopter noise, laughter, explosion, screams, etc. some of the sound effects are enthusiastically exaggerated; the “swish” sound of a moving of heads and the sound of dropping the cigarette on the ground and etc. in this version the dramatic stating by the rock music and using various sound effects are the factors that help to create a mood in audience.Variety of emotions is the vital elements that animate both opening sequences. The lack or the weakness in presenting certain emotions makes a movie absurd which doesn’t exist in these opening sequences. They portray the different sentiments and feelings in certain situations. In addition to the well acting of the actors in both sequences, camera shots and background music help to depict the sentiments. Zeffirali impresses the viewers with the realistic and emotive feelings.
Anger, abhorrence, fear, humour, friendship and etc pack up every single part of the opening sequence.Better than Zeffirali’s version, Lurhmann convey the certain emotions, ornamented with some entertaining and humorous aspects from such a diverse period of times. The consecutive feelings such as terror, aversion, jocularity and etc in this sequence, builds up tension efficiently among the audience. The climax of the emotion in both sequences are the adversary talk between Benvolio and Tybalt, which emphasises the disgust and frighten with the help of extremely effective close-up shots and effective background music.It is hard to choose the better movie between the realistic and conventional version of Zeffirali, and the modernized and the 20th centuries’ version of “Romeo and Juliet”, the Lurhmann’s film.
Zeffirali’s version evocates the viewers with creating the realistic picture of medieval life style, while Lurhmann astonishes the audience with the modern technologies. I prefer the stirring and magnificent aspect of the originality in Zeffirali’s version rather than the artistic and modernized movie of Lurhmann.