‘The difference between Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (1968) and Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo & Juliet (1996) is simply a modernisation created by Luhrmann to attract a teenage audience.’
To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare, is a tragic love story about two young lovers who are forced to be estranged as a result of their feuding families. The play is about their struggle to contravene fate and create a future together. As such, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood would try to emulate Shakespeare’s masterpiece. This had been done before in many films. Prominent among them were, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 “Romeo and Juliet” and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.” Both films stay true to the themes of Shakespeare’s original play. However, the modernised Luhrmann film not only maintains the essence of Shakespeare’s writings, Luhrmann makes it relevant to a teenage audience. This is done through upgrading of the setting, the renewal of props and costumes, the use of water symbolism and the reconstruction of the prologue, whilst preserving the original Shakespearean language. Out of the two, it is Luhrmann who targets Romeo & Juliet to a younger audience to a much larger extent than Zeffirelli.
Luhrmann’s variation of the film is more suited to a teenage audience than Zeffirelli’s, due to the vibrant settings and modern sets utilised throughout the film. Several of these sets include the beach, high rise buildings and petrol stations. These factors are used to tempt a younger audience. Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, however, takes place in a medieval Italian city. Although the original play was based and performed in this location, teenage viewers cannot relate to the surroundings, hence making it difficult to understand or appreciate the plot. A compelling scene change is the Capulet’s ball, as it occurs in a realistic setting; a colossal dance foyer. However, in Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the “star-crossed lovers” meet at an austere costume ball, whilst melancholic music played in the backdrop. Zeffirelli’s version of the ball was dull and the romance between Romeo and Juliet was delivered poorly. There appeared to be little, if any, chemistry between the lovers. Conversely, the 1996 representation of the film was wild, had strident music, yet still leaving some graceful features. The intensity and sweetness between both Romeo and Juliet was beautifully conveyed leaving the audience longing for more.
Luhrmann modernised Romeo and Juliet through regular amendments of the props and costumes. In updating these aspects of the film, Luhrmann makes the play more relevant to our everyday modern environment. The actors in Luhrmann’s version carry guns instead of swords. Luhrmann, in an act of ingenious brand the guns with titles such as “Sword,” thus, enabling the original Shakespearean language to be preserved. Costumes differ...