William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tells the tale of two "star-crossed" teenage lovers who secretly fall for each other and marry. Little do they know they're destined to be apart- their families, the Montagues and Capulets, have been fierce enemies for decades. In the end, their love is doomed. When Romeo mistakenly believes Juliet is dead, he poisons himself. And, when Juliet discovers that he is dead, she too commits suicide.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Made in: 1996
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Miriam Margolyes, Diane Venora, Harold Perrineau
This is your William Shakespeare's lovers with a twist. The film is set in modern Verona beach in America. The days when sword fighting is turned into violent gun battles, tamed horses into wild super cars and men's tights into colourful Hawaiian shirts. One thing remains unchanged- Shakespeare's dramatic 15th centaury language.
As you'd expect in Shakespeare's time, the characters are each unique and are very dramatic. In this film, Romeo is a fickle teenager, his heart broken by Rosaline, but quickly recovers seeing Juliet. I would criticise DiCaprio seeing as his delivery of Shakespeare's language seemed forced at times and, on at least one occasion (when he learns about Juliet's supposed death), he goes way over-the-top. Juliet is portrayed a very young, sweet and innocent teenager, falling in love for the first time. On the whole, her acting was good, but not quite exceptional earthier.
The best performer by far was by Harold Perrineau's Mercutio when he is presented as a high-energy drag queen and gets a chance to strut his stuff to a disco tune with Shakespearean lyrics at the Capulets party. He uses dialogue in a convincing manner to make the audience laugh and to generate empathy when he is dying. John Leguizamo plays a particularly effective Tybalt, Juliet's cousin (the film's evil villain).
The film creates a multitude of emotions and drama. The main theme is romance and tragedy. The film shows characters emotions through the music and camera angle, costume and special effects- it works a treat.
Romeo and Juliet's camera is restless, always moving. There are times when the rapid cuts and raging soundtrack might cause understandable confusion between the movie and a rock video. Indeed, with all the gripping camera tricks, special effects (such as a roiling storm), and violent splashes of colour, it's easy to lose the plot. One example where this is shown is when Romeo also arrives at the Capulets house of the party. The music beings to distort into a fuzzy drill noise and the camera begins to spin in slow motion to show his nauseous state when Romeo is takes ecstasy.
Overall, the film was well structured and most parts had me on the edge of my seat. It has all the elements it needs to leave our heart warm and deeply engrossed into the film. I absolutely loved the fighting scenes; it's very dramatic and feels as if you're contained within the movie. I would criticise this film by saying the plot is too idealistic (you can't possibly think you're in love with someone enough to die with them after meeting them only for a few days). It felt as though Luhrumann skipped the part where they fall deep in love and went straight to the tragedy. This film is more suited for the MTV generation.
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Made in: 1968
Cast: Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery, Pat Heywood, Natasha Parry, Robert Stephens, Milo O'Shea
This film was produced in 1968 but set in 15th centaury Verona in Italy. It's closely knitted will the storyline of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'. The accounts are precise and are fairly easy follow.
In this film, Verona gives off the peculiar medieval vibe, it feels like it's another country on its own. It was the days when men wore stripped tights with frilly petticoat and woman were left in the bottom of the hierocracy with little freedom over their lives. The town seems so small and unaffected by the outside world that the place looks like a page torn out of a fairy tale.
For me, the main theme of the movie gives off is the hardship you face when you're in love. In this film Romeo is portrayed more innocent and immature when falling in love than Luhrmann's. He is the type of person who is completely driven by emotions. When watching Romeo, I feel as though he doesn't quite fit into his setting; the society feels too spiteful for his character, which kind off make us sympathise with him. Juliet's personality more daring, she is not afraid to show off her feeling, even though most of the time she ends in throwing convulsion on the floor. Sometimes the audience is left wondering whether they should sympathise, laugh or be struck by annoyance at her presence.
With regards to the characters, they're very entertaining and unique. One of the characters I loved was the nurse. Pat Heywood, as the nurse, seems too bawdy, cold, and almost terrifying—in the way that characters in Disney movies suddenly become uncanny, and haunt children's dreams. But these were clearly Zeffirelli's conscious choices and there is so much else that leads you to agree with what he does that he may be right in these uncomfortable choices, too. Juliet was also very gleeful (when her tantrums doesn't drone on forever), and even though her husky voice is rather infuriating, her melodramatic acting is often comical. The nurse and Juliet make quite a duo, especially with Juliet's lady like lust.
The film tries to gets across emotions mainly by using music that expresses the characters situation. The genre is 15th century compositions, mainly classic ballads using pipes and violins. This technique attempts empathises drama, especially when the party begins and people are mourning Juliet's death-although it has the opposite effects on most people.
In addition, the scenes were more theatrics than it ought to be. The film's props seemed unrealistic and the camera angle were motionless- basically, as far as the directing goes, the film seemed monotonous without any climax. There were hardly any special effects and the music was quite dull, even if it's set in 15th century.
In my opinion, I would give this film a rating of 4 out of 10. This is because I didn't like how some scenes dragged on which made the play extremely dull, and I would vituperate the director for this. Also, the storyline is staged to make it too predictable- as soon as one scene finishes, you know what's going to happen in the next one.
These two directors interpretation of the original play is very distinguishable from each other. Baz Luhrmann takes the script and fashions it so it will appeal to the 21st audience. He does this via a mix of prose, special effects and contrasting the language from the setting. On the other hand, Zeffirelli portrays a precise account of Shakespeare's play therefore some scenes seem very long and trivial. There aren't any special effects and the camera angles are pretty basic. He tries to use music to empathise drama but it's not always effective. These are the main difficulties majority of the audience will face trying to enjoy the movie (plus comprehending the language).
Although Zeffirelli's version of 'Romeo and Juliet' encompasses better humour, I still prefer Luhrmann's because it generated a better scenic atmosphere and makes you feel part of the movie. Zeffirelli's version is more suited as a study material for those wanting to learn of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, without reading the play than a source of entertainment. I have to say although Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes make an effective couple, their romance doesn't burn intensely like Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey's. I would still prefer it if someone decided to make a play where William Shakespeare's 'star-crossed' lovers had a happy ending instead of loosing against their futile battle for peaceful love.