The balcony scene in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most iconic scenes in all of literature. And while there have been many film adaptations of the play, perhaps the most famous is Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film.
In the film, the balcony scene is set against a backdrop of vibrant colors and thumping music, which perfectly encapsulates the intense emotions that Romeo and Juliet are feeling for each other. But despite all of the visual and auditory stimulation, it’s still Shakespeare’s words that shine through.
” Romeo: But soft! what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief,” Romeo says, before Juliet appears on the balcony.
And as they declare their love for each other, it’s impossible not to be moved by the power of their words. “Romeo: O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art / As glorious to this night, being o’er my head, / As is a wingèd messenger of heaven / Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes / Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him / When he bestrides the lazy puffing clouds / And sails upon the bosom of the air.”
It’s a truly beautiful scene, and one that perfectly captures the tragedy and romance of Romeo and Juliet.
The Missing Balcony Scene…Or Isn’t There? As a virgin audience of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, I became perplexed as the famous balcony scene began to reveal itself on the courtyard floor. “Where is the barrier, the ‘stony limits,’ that separates lovers from each other?” I inquired. How could one of Shakespeare’s most iconic scenes be missing? In disbelief, I continued to watch as the daring sequence blossomed into an amazing piece.
As Romeo Montague sneaks into the Capulet’s feast, he sees Juliet for the first time and is immediately entranced. In an effort to get closer to her, he drinks a potion given to him by Friar Lawrence that will make him appear dead for forty-two hours. This gives him just enough time to sneak into Juliet’s tomb, profess his love for her, and spend what would be their wedding night together before waking up beside her corpse.
Both Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli created distinctive views of William Shakespeare’s text in order to fulfill the film’s primary objective: to show the intense love between Romeo and Juliet. The films were made 29 years apart, with many minor and not-so-obvious variations between them, including setting, script, and camera technique that are essential to achieving both directors’ distinct goals for the movies.
The balcony scene is one of the most, if not the, important scenes in Romeo and Juliet. It is the first time that the couple are alone together since their marriage and it is where they declare their undying love for each other. In Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the balcony scene takes place in a garden at night with stars shining in the background. The camera work is very close up on the actors’ faces which allows for a lot of emotion to be conveyed between them. The setting and camera work create a romantic mood that reflects the intense love that Romeo and Juliet feel for each other.
In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the balcony scene takes place on a balcony during the day. The camera work is further away from the actors and shows them in long shots which makes their conversation seem less personal. The setting is not as romantic as Zeffirelli’s film because it is during the day and there are people walking around in the background. However, Luhrmann does use music to create a more romantic mood.
The different settings, camera work, and music choices in the balcony scenes of Romeo and Juliet reflect the different objectives of Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann for their films. Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation was meant to be a more traditional and accurate representation of William Shakespeare’s play.
Therefore, he chose a setting and camera work that would create a romantic mood and reflect the intense love between Romeo and Juliet. On the other hand, Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation was meant to be a more modern and accessible representation of the play. Therefore, he chose a setting and camera work that would make the film more relatable to a contemporary audience.
The most apparent distinction between the balcony sequences of the two films is the change in locations. In fact, there is a balcony in Luhrmann’s film, however it is significantly smaller and only appears for a brief period. Both versions feature Romeo climbing to the top of his balcony, but in Luhrmann’s movie, he finds an unattractive nurse rather than Juliet.
Another difference is the music. In Zeffirelli’s film, there is no music playing in the background during the balcony scene. However, in Luhrmann’s film, there is upbeat pop music playing throughout the scene. This adds to the light-hearted and comical mood of the scene.
One similarity between the two balcony scenes is that both Romeo and Juliet profess their love for each other. However, in Zeffirelli’s film, Juliet seems much more hesitant about expressing her love for Romeo. She is also worried about what her parents will think if they find out she is in love with a Montague. In contrast, Juliet in Luhrmann’s film is very open about her love for Romeo. She is not worried about her parents’ opinion and is willing to go against their wishes to be with the man she loves.
Both balcony scenes end with Romeo and Juliet being forced to part ways. In Zeffirelli’s film, Romeo agrees to leave after Juliet promises to send word to him as soon as she can arrange a time for them to meet again. However, in Luhrmann’s film, Juliet tells Romeo that she will send her nurse to him with a message. But before the nurse can deliver the message, Romeo leaves without waiting for a response from Juliet.