Comparing two film versions of Romeo and Juliet

Essay by wawez April 2004

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For my media coursework I am going to compare the first 8-9 minutes of two versions of 'Romeo and Juliet'. The first is by Franco Zeffirelli filmed in 1968 and the second is by Baz Luhrmann filmed in 1996. They both use Shakespeare's language but they are very differently presented. The Zeffirelli version made in 1968 is set in a traditional setting because it is in Verona in Italy in the 1400's as Shakespeare set it. The Luhrmann interpretation however, is set in modern times (the last 40 years) somewhere in the U.S.A.

I will be looking at the visual images, the sound effects, and the style of the movie. One difference of two films is that the Zeffirelli starts with a walled city over which the sun rises. It then moves to the city and into the market in front of the church while the Luhrmann starts calmly with a TV in a dark room.

On the TV is a news presenter who reads the news: this is the 'Prologue' of Shakespeare's play.

In the Zeffirelli film, the argument between Montagues and Capuletes is quite courteous, in a mocking way, at the beginning but in the Luhrmann version, everyone is frantic, especially the Montague boys, but they still manage to put a shouted 'sir!' at the end of each sentence. The fight in Zeffirelli starts in the market while in the Luhrmann the fight is in the gas station. There are modern houses and buildings in the Luhrmann film while in the Zeffirelli film the houses are of the middle Ages. In the Zeffirelli film the food they eat is the kind they would eat in the middle Ages whereas in the Luhrmann they eat modern food like chips.

People who made the Zeffirelli have tried hard to make...