Many films have been made based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Since the play was first written in 1594-1595, many people believe it to be “out of date” or “too hard to understand”, due to the old English and dialect that is used. If films this day in age where made to the exact script of the original version, the audience wanting to view the film would be very limited. Therefore, almost of all of the directors made changes to the script, scenes, and story line. Some changes were slight, some were drastic. Even films that may seem identical to the original version have some revisions to make it more modernized. In today’s Hollywood, in order to attract young audiences, directors had to make some slight and some major changes to the elements of Romeo and Juliet.
Franco Zefferelli directed one of the very early versions ofRomeo and Juliet on DVD. If you were to watch this film, at first glance you would think the play and the movie were almost identical. But if you really analyze both, many differences and changes can be found.
Near the beginning of the film, when Romeo is invited to the Capulet party, Rosaline is present. In the play, Rosaline never shows her face, she is only spoken of. This visual of Rosaline could be added to the film for the satisfaction of the audience. Instead of leaving the viewers with a mental picture, they are provided a brief visual. Also in the film, when Mercutio is slain by Tybalt, Mercutio dies in front of Romeo, instead of exiting first with Benvolio. This adaptation is most likely to add drama to the film. The image of Mercutio losing his life right in front of Romeo adds more emotion to the scene. His death makes more of an impact on the audience when it is portrayed in this way.
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In the play, when Romeo is banished by Prince Escalus, he bids his love, Juliet, farewell on her balcony. This scene in the play is very emotional and saddening, because Romeo must leave his companion Juliet forever. However, in the Zefferelli version, Romeo portrays his love for Juliet in a much more intimate, modern way. Instead of bidding her farewell on the balcony, the scene opens with a naked Romeo lying with an also naked Juliet on her bed. Although nothing is shown, the assumption should be made that they have had sex. Zefferelli sets the scene up this certain way to send a message to the viewer, that Romeo and Juliet consummated their marriage. In the play, none of these intimate relations occur. The substitution of the balcony scene for the scene in Juliet’s bed is one of the clearest examples of the modernization that occurs in the transition from the play to the film. The modern cinema today thrives of sensuality, and placing a scene like this in Zefferelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet serves as a “crowd pleaser”, or a scene used to attract a younger audience.
When Juliet tells her father that she is willing to marry Paris, and was secretly waiting to take a potion to fake her own death, Lord Capulet was very zealous in the play. Because of this he moved the wedding date up to Wednesday. However, in the film, Lord Capulet keeps the wedding scheduled for Thursday. Right before Juliet drinks the potion in the play, she delivers a long speech to the audience. This long speech is condensed into one line, “Love give me strength” in the movie. The condensation of the speech into one line is mainly to maintain interest from the modern audience. A long, drawn out speech may not entertain the viewer as much, so it was cut down to one line.Also in the play, Romeo has an encounter with Apothecary. This scene shows Romeo purchasing the poison for his suicide. Both the scene of the wedding move up and the scene of Romeo purchasing poison were cut out of this version of the film. Considering that neither of these played a significant role in the plot, they were removed simply to save film time.
Romeo and Paris have a run in at the Capulet tomb in the original text. It is during this quarrel that Romeo slays Paris. When the Zefferelli version is viewed, this specific fight is not present. However, the program for the film contains references to this specific altercation between Romeo and Paris. This leads us to the conclusion that this scene was filmed, but cut out of the final copy when it was edited. Overall, the Franco Zefferelli Version maintains most of the original script and scenes, but if it is analyzed close enough, many revisions and changes can be found.
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Director BazLuhrmann created his own version of Romeo and Juliet, and you could call it a very unique film. When analyzing this film, an educated viewer would have no problem finding an abundance of changes. Critics claimed this version is “dumbed down”, or simplified, to allow a young and modern audience to fully understand each scene and the overall plot without using too much brain power. If a teenager was forced to read Shakespeare for school, this movie would help them gain a full and clearer knowledge of the plot, not necessarily the culture or language used in the original text of Romeo and Juliet. As a whole, the film contains an obvious modern atmosphere.
From the opening scene to the closing scene, this film’s urban hue lingers in the viewer’s eyes. Although some of the language is the same as the original text, every setting is portrayed in a modern way, including newer clothing styles and hair styles. One of the major differences is, once again, the fight between Romeo and Paris at the Capulet tomb. This never occurs in Luhrmann’s version, as it does in the play. In the play directed by Shakespeare, Juliet sees that Romeo has taken his life, and she stabs herself with his dagger. When BazLuhrmann directs this specific scene, instead of Juliet using a dagger, she uses a gun. This example shows very obviously the modern views displayed in this film. Arguably the biggest difference from the original play directed by Shakespeare and Luhrmann’s version is when Romeo takes his life. The stage performance shows Romeo taking his own life, then after he dies, Juliet awakes from her sleep. But this scene was not nearly dramatic enough for Mr. Luhrmann. Instead of directing this scene the way Shakespeare did, BazLuhrmann added a detail that was sure to strike the audience with drama and awe. Right as Romeo drinks the poison, Juliet wakes up from her slumber. For a brief moment, the lovers look into each other’s eyes. This little addition has plenty of dramatic effect, and hits the audience with a moment of breathlessness. That is exactly what Luhrmann intended.
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