Romeo and Juliet

In class we had to watch and analyse two versions of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. These variations of the play were based on the same script and they both used Shakespearian prose to speak in; this made the film much more authentic and made it easier to relate from the play to the movie. The difference between the two movies was that one was more modern and the other was fairly dated.

Subsequently, one had been modified to suit the younger generation whereas the other was more or less untarnished and old fashioned, it looked so much more archaic than the modern parody. In my opinion, although the modern version was more suited to younger people, I feel that it was much too much of a travesty of the storyline and that most of the acting was over exaggerated; for instance the cousins of Romeo being punks I thought was just too much off the storyline as in the actual play, they seem respectable too.

On the other hand, the Zephirelli version of Romeo and Juliet is much sweeter and romantic, slower paced, I think that the fact that they used the original prose fits better with this version of the play then the modern version; because the more recent version is so modern, the use of Shakespearian prose in it seems odd and sounds out of place. In contrast, I think that the acting in The Luhrmann variation was better than that of the Zephirelli, Olivia Hussey in the latter was much too childish and didn’t get across the desperation and depression that she should have been feeling at the death of Tybalt; her crying was too fake.

Also, the nurse’s acting was appalling, her crying was forcefully forged and her laughter sounded like a witch cackling. She seemed to not act in Juliet’s best interests and seemed to turn into the villain at the end which I am not sure whether that was part of the plot or not. Conversely, I believe that Leonard Whiting’s acting in the older version of the movie is sweeter and more romantic. He seems and looks so much more innocent, and less cocky than Leonardo DiCaprio.

Alternately, I believe that Claire Danes’ performance in Romeo and Juliet was commendable, she was much stronger than Olivia Hussey and she seemed to be much more decisive and firm which is perfect Juliet qualities, being as firm as Romeo is fickle. Leonardo, alternatively, reflected the youth today in being hasty; he didn’t seem young and naive enough to play the part well. His lines seemed forced and didn’t seem right coming from his mouth. The same could be said for his punkish brothers, it seemed almost foolish that those prose should come from their lips, I found it amusing and I didn’t think that is suited them at all.

The music choice in the Zephirelli film was creditable as well, the song “What is a youth” really got across the message of beauty being only skin deep and the fact that youth wears off soon. I thought that the lyrics of the song really reflected the actual movie and story line; this implied that the song choice had been carefully thought out so that the music and the acting complimented each other. I thought it ironic that as the singer was telling the crowds about the faults and the inconsistency of youth and love whilst Romeo and Juliet were first meeting each other and falling in love.

At the same time, I admire the fashion in which the Luhrmann version of the film modernised the movie, the way that the swords were adjusted to fit the time and setting by being altered to being guns called “swords”. Also, the way the Queen Mab story was altered to being a pill of ecstasy was really clever and fit the time of drug and youth culture perfectly. In retrospect with all these things in consideration, I conclude that my favoured film out of both of these is the Zephirelli version as I feel that this was much more romantic and sweet.

The actors were innocent and beguiling, which meant that you had more sympathy for them when you knew what was to come. Although the nude scene ruined it for me as I knew that the actress was under-aged and therefore it spoiled the passion slightly. The song choice and the appropriate setting made the whole film come alive for me, and even though sometimes the fighting was a little too brutish and gory, I feel that this is an accurate reflection of the play and that it replicates the action as it would be on a Shakespearian theatre.