The first version of Romeo and Juliet was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and was released in 1968. The Zeffirelli version took place in the city of Verona. The second version of Romeo and Juliet was directed by Baz Luhrmann and was released in 1996. The Luhrmann version took place on Verona beach. The films told the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers that were held apart by fate. Both versions of the film provided very different perspectives on Shakespeare’s texts because of the eras they were set in. In the film of Romeo and Juliet, a group of Montagues risk further controversy by gate-crashing a Capulate party. The Capulates and Montagues despise each other. Young lovesick Romeo, who is a member of the Montague family falls instantly in love with Juliet who is a member of the Capulate family. Juliet is due to marry her father’s choice, Paris, the next day. During act III scene 1 Tybalt wanted to fight Romeo, but Romeo refused to fight, which made Mercutio angry, so he then fought Tybalt in the streets of Verona. The street fight led to Tybalt killing Mercutio. In anger, Romeo fought Tybalt which then led to Tybalt being killed. As a punishment for killing Tybalt, the Prince banished Romeo from Verona.
In Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of the film, the use of shot size, mise-e-scene, and sound have been successful in portraying the tragedy. Zeffirelli’s use of close ups shots put emphasis on the most tragic scenes in the film by putting into focus the characters faces and emotions. During Mercutio’s death scene, a close up shot of Tybalt is shown. The shot shows the astonished look on his face after realising that he had just stabbed Mercutio. The close up shot revealed that it took Tybalt a couple of seconds to realise that he had finally done what he intended to do. The look on Tybalt’s face after stabbing Mercutio positions the audience to think about whether death was the outcome that he expected when they began fighting. The directors clever use of close up shots further reinforces the build-up of tragedy in the scene. Furthermore mise-en-scene has also been used to assist in portraying the tragedy. Zeffirelli has strategically colour coded each of the families. The Montagues are wearing different shades of blue and the Capulates are wearing a variety of orange shades. The colour coding during the fight scene made it easier for the audience to work out which family each person was from. The rich and vibrant colour choices brought out intense emotions of a tragedy. Finally, diegetic sound has been used in the scene. When Tybalt and Mercutio were fighting you clearly see them thrusting swords at each other and you can hear their swords whistling through the air before they clink together. The sounds of the swords add to the violence of the scene. This positions the audience to feel deeply abut the serious nature of the fight. The successful use of film code/techniques used throughout Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet depict Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Luhrmann’s version also effectively uses shot size, mise-e-scene, and sound to portray the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. During the fight scene there is a long shot of Mercutio dead on the beach with Romeo crouched down beside him and Romeo then running to chase after Tybalt to kill him. The long shot shows Romeos exact reaction to Tybalt killing Mercutio and how infuriated he was at Tybalt. The long shot positions the audience to feel Romeos pain as he was crouched down next to his lifeless best friend, hence why he took action to kill Tybalt almost immediately after. Moreover, the director uses mise-en-scene when the bright sunny day instantly shifted to overcast clouds, thunder, lightning, and rain to add powerful emotion to the scene. This portrays the tragedy, because when something bad happens like death, the sudden thunderstorm hits and it makes the scene look much more tragic. Lastly, non-diegetic sound is used when the background music in the scene increases as the fight gets more serious. The music becomes more dramatic to best fit what is happening in the scene. The way that Luhrmann has made the sound become more dramatic emphasizes the tragedy. The film code/techniques used throughout Luhrmann’s 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet are effective in illustrating Shakespeare’s tragedy.
After watching both versions of Romeo and Juliet I feels as though Franco Zeffirelli’s version of the film is the most successful in depicting the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Both films were interpreted in totally different ways, and because Shakespeare did not include much stage directions in his script, the films are so similar, yet so different. Zeffirelli’s version was based around the original era and Luhrmann’s version had a more modernised approach. Zeffirelli’s version was more effective at conveying the tragedy as this film was made exactly how Shakespeare wrote it. The director used actors who were all around the same age as the characters from the original play, which made it much more enjoyable.