William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet

William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet

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William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet

The opening sequences of Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’ and Baz
Lurhmann’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’ are different in their own ways.
Zeffirelli’s is older and more traditional. Franco Zeffirelli directed
his film in 1968, starring Leonardo Whiting and Olivia Hussey as Romeo
and Juliet. It was made in the UK, filmed by paramount pictures corp.
and was on general release. Lurhmann directed his version of ‘Romeo
And Juliet’ at Verona Beach in America. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio as
Romeo and Clair Danes as Juliet, this film is a modern 20th century
recording of Shakespeare’s love story. Both directors try to use their
opening sequence to show us a clip of their interpretation of
Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’. Both openings set different moods to
the films and just by looking at the opening sequences we see a mini
trailer of each film. We can tell vaguely what the film is going to be
about and what genre it is in. Zeffirelli’s opening is calm and gives
us a sense of a romantic tragedy as the prologue is told and the
titles appear. Lurhmann uses his opening to give us a sense of action,
murder and rivalry between two family groups. The opening sequence to
his film is fast and action packed, and uses clips to illustrate the
prologue as it is being said. For example he shows two similar towers,
representing the Montague and Capulet families as the line ‘both alike
in dignity’ is being said.

Audience expect a typical ‘Romeo And Juliet’ film to be tragic,
depressing and Romantic. The expectations we get are because a
Shakespearean play is old and traditional. A climax is usually present
at the end and the villains do not have happy endings. However, even
thought the villains don’t win, not all of Shakespeare’s plays have
happy endings. Classical music is always an expectation from
Shakespeare as his plays are set in old times.

The purpose of an opening sequence is to set the mood for the film, as
we learn from the openings of Zeffirelli and Baz Lurhmann’s

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productions. The music, voice-overs and clips from opening sequences
contribute to the effect of the film as they give us an idea of what’s
coming in the film. A 21st century audience much prefer to watch a
modern, action-packed, romantic film of ‘Romeo And Juliet’ than a
depressing, older version of the same film. Looking at the opening
sequence to both Zeffirelli’s and Lurhmann’s productions, we see that
Lurhmann’s is more modern and exciting for younger audience, whereas
Zeffirelli’s is more traditional and for an older audience. The
importance of an opening sequence is that it creates a scene, sets a
mood and gives audience a taste of what they are about to see.

Zeffirelli uses different film techniques like camera shots and music
to create an effect in his opening sequence of ‘Romeo And Juliet’. He
tries to present his opening in such a way that it sets the mood for a
romantic, sad and tragic love story. It starts off with an orange
border around the TV screen and the city of ‘Verona’ fades up from
mist. The camera uses a panning shot to scan over the city of Verona
and give a setting to the scenery. As it is slowly panning the city
from a high angle, the prologue is being said, slowly and in a sad
tone by Sir John Gielgud. The prologue reflects the ending of the play
as it tells us what’s going to happen; “Doth with their death bury
their parents’ strife”. Only eight lines of the prologue are said
because the eighth line reflects the ending of the film and the last
few lines indicate that a play is going to be shown for two hours, “is
now the two hours’ traffic of our stage”. As the play has been made
into a film, these lines cannot be included. The camera zooms into the
city and presents Shakespeare’s name in big, bold writing, which fills
up the TV screen. Then there is a cut, which moves the scene to the
market square and we see an establishing shot, which shows characters
and horses walking onto the scene. This sets a mood and creates an
atmosphere for the market square. The music is slow and sad. It is
quiet as the prologue is being said, then as it finishes it gets
louder as a finale and ends as the market scene begins. The music is
non-diagetic, as we do not see it being played, but the market square,
the people and the horses walking onto the scene are diagetic sound.

Baz Lurhmann’s version differs from Zeffirelli’s in many ways. His
opening is more action-packed and fast and more modern. At the
beginning, a TV screen appears and a news reporter is saying the
prologue as news. There is a medium shot of her in her TV and the
camera slowly zooms in until her TV fills the screen. Behind the news
reporter there is a picture of a broken ring and ‘star cross’d lovers’
is written underneath. This illustrates the film and tells us that the
pair of lovers have a tragic ending. This fits in with the prologue
because the prologue reflects the ending of the play with the line
“Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife”. We know the ending
before the film has begun as it is mentioned in the prologue.

The camera zooms into the city of ‘Verona’ very fast and then out
again very fast so a high angle of the city is shown. Quick clips of
the city flash upon the screen using establishing shots and quick cuts
to different clips. These clips tell the audience what’s coming in the
film. “In fair Verona” is written across the TV screen in big, bold
letters. Newspaper headlines flash upon the TV screen one-by-one with
parts of the prologue as headings of stories. Two buildings are shown;
one with ‘Montague’ written on top of it and the other reads
‘Capulet’. These towers are shown when the line “Both alike in
dignity” is being said, and they represent that both the Montague’s
and Capulet’s are equal in wealth and status in society.

Along the streets of Verona, the Montague’s and Capulet’s are
fighting. There is much action, fighting, killing and police are
involved. The camera uses the tracking shot to scan over the
newspapers, which have stories of both families fighting. The prologue
appears on screen line-by-line, very fast and each line is in a
different font. The characters are then introduced using medium shots,
the characters are frozen in clips from the film and who they are
appears in white writing by the side of them. The prologue flashes
upon the screen again, really fast and in different fonts. The title,
‘Romeo And Juliet’ appears and the ‘And’ is in the shape of a cross
and is red. This indicates blood and immediately gives audience the
expectation that there will be murder in the film. When the characters
are being introduced, we notice that Romeo and Juliet are not
introduced. There are many possible reasons why Baz Lurhmann chose not
to put them in his opening sequence. He may have wanted to build up
audience’s anticipation. He may have excluded them from the opening as
they are main characters or because they are not part of the fight
between both families.

The sounds that we hear through Baz Lurhmann’s opening sequence of
‘Romeo And Juliet’ follow in this order: The news reporter reports the
prologue as news, then as the camera zooms into the city of Verona it
creates a ‘whoosh’. The music is dramatic and loud. The pace increases
and the volume rises. The music is orchestral and striking. It gets
louder then stops as the prologue is said again, more dramatically
with a better effect. As the characters are introduced the volume and
pace of the music increase. The volume keeps increasing, until the
final note where it dies out and the title, ‘Romeo And Juliet’, is
shown across the screen. Diagetic sounds in the opening sequence are
the woman saying the prologue and sounds from the quick clips (e.g.
police). Non-diagetic sounds include the zoom, the prologue said for
the second time by a man, the music in the background, the characters
being introduced, quick flashes on the screen and helicopters.

The overall effect of Zeffirelli’s version on the audience is sad and
depressing, and sets the mood for an old, romantic love story with a
tragic ending. The way the prologue is said has an effect on the film
as we can tell, just by listening to the prologue, that the ending
will not be happy. Also the music contributes to the effect of
Zeffirelli’s opening as it reminds us of a funeral procession tune and
we can immediately guess the ending.

Baz Lurhmann’s opening however is exciting and thrilling as there is a
lot of action in it. It appeals to younger 21st century audiences and
has fast, dramatic music. The quick shots show us that the film has a
lot more to it than just romance. The fighting at the beginning
indicates murder and rivalry between two groups, and reflects modern
America. The way the camera shots are used all add to the action and
create an opening sequence full of suspense.

The opening sequence to Zeffirelli’s version measures up to audience’s
expectations of a Shakespeare film as it has classical, sad music,
medieval, old fonts and the prologue is said slowly and sadly.

Baz Lurhmann’s opening illustrates suspense and mystery, as we would
normally expect from Shakespeare. However Lurhmann’s version does not
measure up to our expectations of a Shakespeare film as well as
Zeffirelli’s does. This is because it is for a younger audience and
for the 21st century. It doesn’t show romance as strongly as it
should, as romance is the main theme of the play. The prologue is
illustrated using modern clips so we see a more modern version of
‘Romeo And Juliet’.

Baz Lurhmann’s version worked much better for me because it appeals to
teenagers nowadays. It is similar to the films we would watch and
creates a theme of suspense. Zeffirelli’s is ideal for an older
audience who expect Shakespeare’s original play to be incorporated in
the film instead of using his story line as a base of the film, like
Lurhmann did, and making it more modern. It is more romantic and has
less action in it so it highlights the genre of the film better than
Lurhmann’s version does.

Overall, both versions are different and reflect Shakespeare’s story,
but Lurhmann’s appeals to younger audiences and Zeffirelli’s is more
for the older generation.
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