The Shakespeare play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has been screened by two different directors and in two different time periods. The first production was made in 1968 and was directed by a man called Zeffirelli. The second production was made in 1997 and was directed by another man called Baz Luhrman. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has become one of the greatest known plays of all time. The play is a constant trail of feud, danger, secrecy and romance. One of the most well known scenes in the play is the balcony scene, and I am going to comment on both of the productions of that scene.
In the Zeffirelli production of the balcony scene, the settings are very medieval and old. At the very start of the scene, Romeo is out on the street with Benvolio and Mercutio. The street is cobbled, worn down and dirty. The buildings are also made out of very rough, old stone and are medieval looking. Because the buildings are tall, this adds to the whole effect of secrecy and danger, especially when Romeo enters the orchard in Capulet’s garden that is directly below Juliet’s window and balcony.
When Romeo enters the orchard, we see more old, stone walls and lots of large trees, which are ideal for hiding from any guards around the house, again showing the secrecy effect. We can also see a romantic side to the setting. For example, the stars and the moon give a very romantic ‘touch’ to the scene because they are both directly above the balcony and therefore can add to what Romeo and Juliet think of each other. They are very much in love and are always thinking romantic thoughts about each other.
In the Luhrman production of the balcony scene, the settings are very modern and take a different approach to how the scene is acted out. Unlike the Zeffirelli production, there are stairs at the bottom of the balcony, which lead to Juliet’s room, and there is also an elevator in which Juliet comes down to the orchard pool. Around the orchard are lots of fairy lights and flowers which, again, add to the romance factor of this scene. When Romeo and Juliet fall into the pool and begin to talk to each other, they are constantly moving about and creating a very good effect of danger by talking very gently to each other and trying to dodge the cameras and guards around the house. Again, the idea of the moon and stars is very effective because it adds a bit of mystery to the whole film by making the audience get a feeling that something is going to go terribly wrong in the next few days.
The light and sound in the Zeffirelli production is very effective. On the way in to the orchard, noises in the background can be heard, such as a dog barking or Mercutio and Benvolio screaming out Romeo’s name in the middle of the cobbled streets. When Romeo actually enters the orchard, there are lots of voices that can be heard from people in the house and there is the sound of rustling trees in the garden, adding to the secrecy effect.
When Romeo begins to talk, Juliet is very startled when she finds out that there is someone in her garden. But only when she finds out it is Romeo, her attitude completely changes from fearful to overjoyed. During the whole conversation which they have, Juliet laughs quite often and it is a very effective laugh because she really emphasises it and tries very hard to concentrate on keeping Romeo from getting caught at the same time. When the nurse calls for Juliet to come into the house, she shouts at the top of her voice over and over again because Juliet is saying she is coming in when she is actually still talking to Romeo out on the balcony. The music in this scene is played very appropriately because when there is danger or happiness, it is played fast but when there is love or happiness, the exact same music is played again but slower.
In the Luhrman production, the light and sound is very effective as well, because there are bright party lights, the shimmer of the water’s reflection on all of the walls, the noises of the water and the music throughout the whole scene. The music is a continuous piano piece performed with complete emotion, reflecting the scene and telling the story in its own way. When the nurse shouts for Juliet to come in from the pool, the music changes to reflect a mood of secrecy, and danger for Romeo.
The casting for the Zeffirelli production was very appropriate, because the actors and actresses suited the roles and reflected the era when the play was written. The script was true to the play, even though in 1968 lifestyle was quite different from that of the Romeo and Juliet age. The actors were very professional and well versed in the language and style of living portrayed in the play.
The casting for Luhrman production was acceptable. Romeo was not suited to the part, because he did not deliver the lines with enough emotion, therefore the impact of the character was weak. Juliet played her part well, but she lacked a certain quality in talent, that Zeffirelli’s Juliet had.
The costumes for Zeffirelli’s production for the entire cast created an image of the Shakespearean era, and were colourful, expensive, and rebellious, showing rivalry between the two families.
The costumes for the Luhrman production, for Romeo and Juliet’s characters only, I think were better. Romeo’s suit of armour showed he would have to fight for Juliet’s love, and Juliet’s angel costume showed her innocence and youth. The Capulet’s in this production were more focused on their image and how they spent their money.
Overall I think the Zeffirelli production of Romeo and Juliet was better because it was true to the play, and reflective of the time when written. I think the Luhrman production could have been a better film if there had been more focus on delivery of the lines, e.g. imagery. A modern day production of Romeo and Juliet does not work; people are more interested in action films rather than good old fashioned Shakespeare, what a waste!