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Romeo and Juliet: Comparing the Films

Comparing and contrasting Franco Zeffirelli’s and Baz Luhrmann’s film versions of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.




The two different film versions of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zeffirelli’s and Baz Luhrmann’s can be compared and contrasted in many different ways. Three examples of the differences in the two movies are the intended audience for the movies, the death scene and the town of Verona. Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was released in 1968 and was designed to tell the exact story of Romeo and Juliet in the Elizabethan Era. Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was released in 1996 and was made to show what would have happened if the story of Romeo and Juliet would have happened in modern times.

The two directors, Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann have intended the movies for very different audiences. Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet is suited more to older people who like to know the accurate portrayal of Romeo and Juliet, want a nice slow, interesting love story and do not want action. Luhrmann was looking for a younger audience who found the Zeffirelli’s film boring, want action, want a fast moving movie, and like modern sets.

The death scenes near to the end of Zeffirelli’s and Luhrmann’s films are very different from each other. The death scene involves Juliet waking up from her deep sleep to find that Romeo has poisoned himself believing that Juliet was dead. Juliet then kills herself. Zeffirelli sets the death scene in a dark tomb with other dead around and Luhrmann sets his version of the death scene in a church with lots of neon crosses, lights and candles around the room. In Zeffirelli’s version of the story Juliet is lying on a big stone coffin when Romeo comes in and sees her thinking she is dead. Romeo wishes that Juliet would get up, gets some poison out of his pocket and drinks it. Juliet wakes up straight after Romeo dies and tries to kiss the poison off his lips. Juliet then grabs a knife and stabs her self. In Luhrmann’s version Juliet is found on a bed at the front of the church underneath a cross and candles. Romeo comes into the church, walks to the front, sees Juliet dead and drinks some poison. Juliet wakes up just as Romeo is about to die. Romeo and Juliet both talk then kiss and Romeo dies. Juliet then pulls a gun out and shots her self in the head.

The town of Verona is portrayed very differently in the two movies, one a little old town and the other a big city on the coast.  The little Italian, Elizabethan era village in Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet had old stone buildings with cobble stone yards. Zeffirelli’s Verona was a walled town with busy markets, lots of alleyways and dirt and stone paths. Some of the buildings in the town had gothic figures and mosaic art on them. In Luhrmann’s movie the city of Fair Verona Beach, USA was a lot more modern and bigger. The City on the coast with a beach was a lot like an American city. It had lots of big glass buildings, roads, petrol stations and cars. There were also big concrete buildings. The main three things that stood out in this city was the two big tall glass buildings that said Montague and Capulet on them in big letters, the church where Romeo and Juliet died with the massive statue of Christ on it exactly like the statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil called ‘Christ the Redeemer’, and the Beach.

As you can see from these different examples, Luhrmann and Zeffirelli portrayed the story of Romeo and Juliet very differently. The Town of Verona is portrayed really differently in both the movies, the death scene was in a different place and occurred very differently in each movie, and the two directors were aiming for very different audiences. Zeffirelli has made his movie the way he did because he wanted to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet how and where it happened. Luhrmann made his version to be modern and tell the story of Romeo and Juliet to appeal to a young audience. Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet is one of those movies you either love or hate.

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