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Romeo and Juliet- A Comparison of The Two Film Adapatations

The purpose of having an opening sequence is to get the audience into the movie and to get their attention. The audience should be glued to the screen, meaning that their 100% attention and concentration should be the movie. This essay will be comparing the openings of the two film versions of the play Romeo and Juliet are based in the 17th Century around the time of the actual play. However, Baz Luhrmann 1996 version was based in 1996 (in the late twentieth century).

Section 1. I will now compare section 1 of both movies; In Franco Zeffirelli’s version, we see the panning over 15th century Verona and a superimposed shot of Franco Zeffirelli with Verona in the background. In this shot, the director shows us the location and time of the play, and he also shows that he directed this movie by having his name superimposed. Then there is a shot of William Shakespeare’s name superimposed next to the sun; this is very iconic as the director shows us that Shakespeare’s the sun of the play (the ultimate source of the play) because he wrote the play.

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Although Franco Zeffirelli’s version is less modern than Baz Luhrmann’s version, it still has a lot of detail; Baz Luhrmann’s version starts with a TV shot with a news report on it. The camera then slowly zooms into the TV screen until the resolution of the TV screen matches the resolution of the actual movie. The news report is basically the prologue being readout. The director does this to differentiate his new and modern version from the old Franco Zeffirelli version. The actual movie also starts with the production company name twentieth-century fox, which, together with the news report, shows us that this version is new and modern. Finally, the director successfully shows us when the movie is set.

There is then a shot of the town castle tall walls and the background the voiceover reads out the phrase two foes which implies the fact that these two families hate each other so much that there needs to be a very tall wall in between them, it can also mean that these two foes/families have divided the city into two, one side which is the Montague’s and on the Capulet’s. With the title of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ superimposed in front of the castle, their name appears when the voiceover reads out the phrase two-star cross’d lovers Franco Zeffirelli’s play is set in the 15th century Verona Baz Luhrmann’s version is set in California 1996. This tells us that Franco Zeffirelli’s version matches the original play more than Baz Luhrmans version because it is set in the actual city in the play and around the actual time of the play. Baz Luhrmann’s version shows a city similar to Los Angeles. Franco Zeffirelli’s version starts on a foggy morning.

Baz Luhrmann version starts in a dark room with a news report on TV. The news report tells us that the movie is about love and the two-star cross’d lovers, i.e. the basic storyline. Franco Zeffirelli’s version creates a very romantic, calm and peaceful mood using soft music and morning shots of lovely Verona. This contrasts with Baz Luhrmann’s version, where he creates a sombre and dramatic mood as the movie starts with a news report, making the audience feel like something serious has happened or is about to happen (making them feel tense/excited). As soon as the news reporter ends speaking, we see a shot of ‘new day’ Verona; in that shot, the two tallest buildings in the city standing next to each other have the signs Montague and Capulet, respectively. Between the two buildings, there is a statue of Christ much smaller than both the buildings of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s.

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This Director implies to us that this fight/feud is bigger than religion because the statue of Christ is significantly smaller than the ones of both families. On another point, these 2 buildings are the biggest in the city, which supports that both the families are the biggest and most powerful in town. We don’t really see any characters in section 1 of Zeffirelli’s version, but there is a voiceover in the background, the prologue being read out. In section 1 of Baz Luhrmann’s version, only one character is the newsreader/presenter who reads out the prologue as a news report. Section 1 of Zeffirelli’s version starts with soft piano/harp string music, a very romantic type of music that contrasts with the serious news report of Baz Luhrmann’s version. Franco Zeffirelli’s version connects to the actual mood of the play more in the opening sequence because the music matches the type of movie it is.

Section 2. In Franco Zeffirelli’s version section, 2 starts with a long shot of the citizens entering through a gate to the market place and then the camera pans left showing market traders and as it finishes panning left and comes to a stop the time advances and we see the market place full with crowds. The music and the voice over also consequently ends with the panning. There is then a long/medium shot of the marketplace from above, and there is also background market noise. This contrasts music as it suddenly went from quiet, peaceful romantic to loud, busy and chaotic. There is then a close up/medium shot of two men walking through the market wearing yellow and red colour leotards, the men are really loud, and they are laughing, which indicates that they are Capulet’s; one other thing to note is that the director didn’t show the men’s faces so that the audience can focus on their clothing.

The next shot shows that one of these three Capulet’s kicks an innocent dog, and then they all start laughing, even more, this indicates that these men are looking for trouble; one thing to note is that after they kick the dog, someone shouts villain this supports my point that these men are looking for trouble. Then finally, the director shows us their faces for the first time, and he shows the audience that these men are Capulet servants, showing the audience that even the servants are involved in the fight/feud. The reason the director might have shown their faces this late might have been so that we can judge them and their actions before actually looking at them. Some members of the audience may think that these three men are part of the actual Capulet family. He shows the audience that this fight/feud affects the public/the citizens through their servants. The location of section 2 does match the original play as much as possible.

In Baz Luhrmann’s version, section 2 starts with “in fair Verona” in white text with a contrasting black background. In the background, the music starts getting really loud and even louder. These shots are very fast-paced, and therefore they also grab the attention of the audience. The prologue is now repeated for the third time. We then see a shot of the enormous statue of Jesus Christ which looks really big. It also has the Montague and Capulet buildings on each side of the statue. Then there is a zoom out shot with the city skyline, which shows that the statue of Jesus Christ building is relatively smaller than the Montague and Capulet buildings. This again repeats the image of the feud between the two families being bigger than religion. There is then split-second shots for the next 8 seconds or so. These shots have images like the wheels of a speeding car, a police helicopter, a statue of Christ, police car and all these images are repeated with the prologue repeated in the background.

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There is then sombre music in the background to end the split-second shot sequence. The next shot is of a newspaper with photos of the family members on the left and right sides of the page with the statue of Christ in the middle. The pictures of the Capulet’s and the Montague’s basically symbolise the city skyline building with the statue of Christ in the middle of them. This again repeats the image of the fight being bigger than religion. As they show this newspaper front page, the phrase two households is being said in the voice over the background. There are split-second shots again for the next 12-14 seconds where the visual and sound match. Then shot 6 is repeated. As the words, two households both alike in dignity are shown as news headlines, and then the same is repeated for the rest of the shots (a phrase is said, and it is shown as a headline at the same time).

All these repeating and dramatic effects have been put in by the director to really dig in the prologue and the director’s point. It is really dramatic as it is like you are there with the police helicopters flying and all the police lights and the loud dramatic music. There are also shots of riots which shows that the fight is affecting innocent citizens. Section 2 ends with a shot of a gunman on a tall building looking across the city. As we see the gunman, the voice-over says the phrase unclean in the background. This is basically shown to the audience to show them that the Montague’s and Capulet’s are killing people making society unclean.

The location of shot 2 doesn’t match the original play because shot 2 is set in something similar to downtown L. A with all the tall skyscrapers and helicopters does not show the era that the play is based and written in. However, the genre and mood in section 2 show you very successfully what the film will be about; watching section 2 is nearly like watching a trailer/teaser with a summary of the story. Although there are no real characters because the shots are fast-paced, and there is no speech except for the voiceover, you see captain prince and the elderly family members. There is swift, dramatic music in the background. It really connects to the mood well because the visual and the video are at the same speed and pace.

Section 3. Section 3 of Franco Zeffirelli’s version starts with a medium shot of the Capulet’s and the Montague’s. Around the Capulet’s, there are red and yellow coloured fruit and vegetables, and around the Montague’s, there are blue and purple coloured fruit and vegetables. The colours of the fruit and vegetables symbolise the Montague’s and the Capulet’s clothes. Then there is a CU shot of the Montague priest amicably talking to stallholders compared to the Capulet’s way of treating the marketplace. The next shot is when the camera cutbacks to the Capulet’s, and there is CU of them talking about backing each other as if they were about to fight. The location is still the marketplace, and it matches the original play.

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The genre and mood tell us that this movie is a lot about the concept of Montague’s vs. Capulet’s and their fighting everywhere because that’s what we see in the movie’s first scenes. The mood quickly changed from normal market chaos to a kind of tense mood when they are about to confront each other. The characters are C1 and C2, who are both Capulet servants, and they both hate Montague’s, and they are not very friendly to the market people. At the same time, the Montague priest is very friendly to the stallman and sounds very kind and peaceful, unlike the Capulet’s, who is the complete opposite. There is not any music in the background. Instead, there is speech as the Capulet’s talk to each other, and the Montague priest also has a conversation with the stallman.

Section 3 of Baz Luhrmann’s version starts with a CU shot of the Montague parents looking out of their car; this is the first time the two characters have been introduced. As their faces appear, the background voiceover says the phrase “from forth to fatal loins,” which means basically from the centre of these two families meaning the key/main members. There is then a shot of the Capulet parents. The director shows this because it tells us that the old parents are also the ones who are the centre of this hatred, they control it, and they are the leaders of both sides. Finally, when there is a CU shot of the Capulet parents, the voiceover also says the phrase “of these two foes”. Again, this is citing that these two families are enemies, foes, and hate each other.

The last shot is of the two captions “A PAIR OF STAR CROSS’D LOVERS then TAKE THEIR LIVES”. The mood then quickly changes from all action to a more calm ending kind of mood. The voice-over then says the phrases shown on the screen (in the video); he says it very slowly and calmly, which contrasts with how he has been saying the other captions. It also helps to emphasize the point that these “two-star cross’d lovers take their lives”—good use of repetition. Unfortunately, the location doesn’t match the location of the original play because it is set in downtown L. A and they also show cars which weren’t present in the fifteenth century.

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Romeo and Juliet- A Comparison of The Two Film Adapatations. (2021, Aug 31). Retrieved June 26, 2022, from