The romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet has been performed by various actors, directors, and writers many times on film or stage, however the themes remain true to William Shakespeare’s original play written in the late 1500s. Both of the films we watched in class were excellent examples of contrast: one was more traditional (Zefferilli’s 1968 version) while the other appealed to a younger generation (Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version). Both were fantastic!)
They had actors that were actually Romeo and Juliet’s ages, which is pretty rare because most of the time adults play teens. This is important to the plot line because Romeo and Juliet are supposed to be young and in love. In Zefferelli’s version Romeo was played by 17 year old Leonard Whiting and Juliet was Olivia Hussey who was 15 when the movie was filmed, these two look like they are actually in love.
In Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo was played by Leonardo Dicaprio who was 22 during filming and Juliet was Claire Danes who was also 17. Even though these ages don’t seem like much of a difference it actually is, because they are going against what Romeo and Juliet’s ages were supposed to be.
Romeo and Juliet fall in love and get married within days and their parents disapprove so Romeo gets banished. Romeo Montague from the 1968 film and Romeo from the 1996 film have different reactions to being banished. In Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo reacts to being banished by being sad and going into a daze, he does not want to leave Juliet.
In Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Romeo is more angry about being banished then anything. He yells and screams at his father for banishing him from Verona. While Romeo is very upset about having to leave in both films, the 1968 Romeo seems like he would rather die then be without Juliet while the 1996 Romeo would rather fight then give up on Juliet.
The balcony scene is one of the most important scenes in Romeo and Juliet because it’s where they declare their love for each other. Even though both movies have this scene they are very different. The 1968 Romeo and Juliet is Romeo sneaking into Juliet’s garden to see her and profess his love for her. It’s dark and Romeo has to be careful not to get caught. While in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet it’s very public, during the day and Romeo rented out a billboard to declare his love for Juliet. It’s ironic because Romeo had to sneak around to see Juliet while in 1996 Romeo could just buy a billboard.
The Nurse is supposed to be motherly figure for Juliet but she can also be comic relief, which both movies showed. In Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet the Nurse is always making dirty jokes and is very comfortable around Romeo, which you can tell by the way she talks to him. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet the Nurse is more serious, she’s not making as many jokes and is a little more awkward around Romeo. The 1968 Nurse is more like a friend to Romeo and Juliet then the 1996 Nurse, which is more like a servant.
The fight scenes are different in both films but are still essential to the plot. In Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, the fight scenes seem very real, like they could actually happen. The sword fighting looks sloppy and there is a lot of pushing and shoving. While in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the fight scenes are more stylized and choreographed. They look more like a dance then a fight. The swords almost look like props and not actual weapons.
The death scenes are different as well, Romeo and Juliet die in each other’s arms in Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. In Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet Romeo finds Juliet apparently dead and kills himself. Juliet then wakes up finds Romeo dead beside her and kills herself. Even though they die differently, they both die for each other which is the most important part.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been remade into movies many times but the 1968 version by Franco Zefferelli and the 1996 version by Baz Luhrmann are two of the most popular. Even though they are based on the same story they are very different. The ages of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s reaction to being banished, the balcony scene, the Nurse, the fight scenes, and the death scenes are all different in these movies. Even with all these differences they both manage to stay true to the original story by Shakespeare.
In Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers fall madly in love and get married within days, only to have their marriage end in tragedy when Romeo is banished from Verona. Romeo Montague from Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet reacts to his banishment by appearing sad and going into a daze, while Romeo from Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version reacts angrily, yelling and screaming at his father.
The balcony scene is one of the most important scenes in Romeo and Juliet, as it is where they declare their love for each other. In Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo sneaks into Juliet’s garden to see her and profess his love for her, while in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Romeo rents out a billboard to declare his love for Juliet.
The Nurse is supposed to be motherly figure for Juliet but she can also be comic relief. In Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse makes dirty jokes and is very comfortable around Romeo, while in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the Nurse is more serious.
The film wouldn’t be the same if the animosity between the two families wasn’t swiftly shown. It allowed the “MTV” generation to understand how their parents’ marriage was failing.
They were able to see the juxtaposition of Romeo and Juliet’s love in comparison to the hate of their families. This was done by using extreme close ups during the fight scenes, which let the viewer feel like they were a part of the action, as well as slow motion for certain key points in the fights.
An example of this is when Romeo Montague (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes to kill Tybalt Capulet (John Leguizamo) after he killed Romeo’s friend Mercutio. In the play, Romeo doesn’t hesitate to take Tybalt’s life even though it means he will be banished. In the movie however, Romeo has an internal battle with himself and you can see the conflict in his eyes.
When Romeo does eventually kill Tybalt, the use of color is very important. As Romeo is slaying Tybalt, everything around him is in slow motion and has a blue tint to it. This blue color represents Romeo’s sadness and regret for what he has done.
The balcony scene is one of the most famous scenes in Romeo and Juliet and Luhrmann did not disappoint. He used great effects to really bring the scene to life. From the twinkling stars, to Romeo flying up to Juliet’s balcony, it was all breathtaking.
The actors in this scene also did an amazing job at making the viewer feel like they were right there with Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo is talking to Juliet, you can see the love and admiration he has for her in his eyes.
You are also able to see how nervous Romeo is, which makes the scene that much more realistic. The part where Romeo has to leave and Juliet doesn’t want him to go is very heartbreaking. You are able to feel Juliet’s pain as she watches Romeo ride off into the night.
This scene would not be as effective if it were not for the great acting by Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.
In conclusion, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet was a great adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.