Mark Borissov: Film Review | Henry V

Film and theater are alike in many ways. If it wasn’t for the popularity of theater, we would probably not have the innovative storytelling power of film we do today. However, there are many differences between the two mediums: there are things audiences needs to be told during plays in order to understand what can easily just be shown in film, and there are qualities of theater that film cannot capture with a camera. It’s easiest to see the disparities between film and theater in a film adaptation of a play. In film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s work, for instance, directors have to make choices in regards to what to keep and what to omit from the original texts, as well as what stylistic choices they themselves what to add in order to appeal to the film audience, all while in the constraints of film as a medium. Kenneth Branagh makes many of these choices in his film adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry V. I shall discuss these choices, and the differences between the original play and Branagh’s film version, specifically viewing and reading into act i scene ii.

Branagh’s act i scene ii starts right after the credits, after his own cinematic interpretation of the prologue, and his short conversation between Canterbury and Ely. The scene begins with a shot of a grand door opening, and Branagh as King Henry walking through it, spliced with a shot of his men standing around, only to order themselves onto either side of the screen as they see their king arrive, all while tense up-tempo music plays. These two shots introducing the king and his men is used to separate the two, having the king appear as a sovereign, alone, separate from all other men, and the men as servants of his majesty. As the king continues through the hall, he passes the faces of his men, introducing their characters. Finally, as the king sits in his throne, the music stops and he speaks for the first time: “Where is my gracious Lord of Canterbury?”

In order to fit the contents of the play into the medium of film, and at the same time retains its audience’s attention, Branagh cuts much of the original text in his adaptation. This cutting not only removes expository information Branagh deems less important, it also removes some of the lyrical elements of Shakespeare’s text, making the dialog more conversational, and therefore more easily understood by a contemporary audience. An example of the text being cut in order to get rid of unimportant exposition would be after King Henry asks for the Lord of Canterbury. In the original text Exeter and Westmoreland actually answer Henry, but in the film adaptation Branagh skips this dialog to instead have Canterbury arrive immediately, almost as if he was summoned. Thinking about it, this all seems rather nonsensical, a king asking a question without anyone answering, only to have the person he is looking for miraculously appear. However, this cutting of dialog allows Branagh to maintain the rhythm and tone of his scene, making the transition between Henry asking for Lord Canterbury and him actually arriving so smooth that the viewer doesn’t notice anything awkward about it. An example of Branagh removing text to retain his audience’s attention, and assist in their understanding of the play, would be Lord Canterbury’s long speech about salique law. Being an intentionally long and convoluted passage, Branagh cuts much of this text’s exposition, while at the same time retaining enough of it to maintain the original intent of the text. Pausing before the sarcastic “so that, as clear as is the summer’s sun” line, and cutting to laughter around the room, Branagh emphasizes that the barrage or names and information is intended to be confusing.

This scene of Branagh’s raises the question; is wrong for Branagh to omit so much of the original text, but include a minute-long sequence of himself walking through a hall? I would argue that he makes the right decision, for this sequence shows much of King Henry’s character that the stripped down script only skims over. It shows a king who’s isolated in his God like power, his circumstance being bestowed by God himself. A king whose men’s passing faces influence his own judgement. Although it’s a shame to miss some of Shakespeare’s beautiful language, Branagh’s ability to develop something like character without any dialog using his own stylistic choices is what separates the capabilities of film from theater.

Natasha King: Scene Comparison | Zeffirelli vs Shakespeare | Hamlet


One of the most obvious differences between Zeffirelli’s Hamlet and the original play is that the opening scene at the guard tower is entirely omitted in the film. I can understand why he did this, since it wasn’t entirely necessary to have multiple scenes with the ghost being encountered. Instead the film skipped the first ghost sighting , to Hamlet being told of the events and then going to the watchtowers himself. By doing this Zeffirell was able to cut down the length of the film while still including the scene that is the catalyst in which Hamlet decides to prove the murder of his father and seek out revenge on his Uncle.


Instead it begins with an original scene of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet are mourning the old King’s death at a funeral. In this scene Claudius’ speech only briefly tells Hamlet to consider him his father. In the same scene in which Gertrude is bent over her late husband’s body, she looks up to Claudius, which seems quite striking. I believe Zeffirelli’s intention was to emphasize how she is already moving onto her new husband-to-be. It is not until a different scene in which Claudius addresses his court to announce the bittersweet news that he has married his former sister-in-law.


The next scene contains Hamlets famous line “a little more than kin and less than kind,” however in the film Hamlet says this directly to Claudius as opposed to saying it quietly to himself. This is something that continues to occur in the film, in which Hamlet is much more bold when it comes to sharing is quips and sarcastic remarks.

One of the aspects of the play that Zeffirelli maintained was Hamlet’s monologue in which he shares his absolute shock that his father has only recently died and his mother is already remarried. The line “frailty, thy name is women” is carried over into this scene. Something I noticed about Zeffirelli’s version is that he maintains the well-known lines.

Opposite to this, something that I was not a fan of was the fact that Fortinbras was hardly mentioned at all. One of the things Shakespeare liked to do was talk about current events in his play, or at least create politic events in order to have a subplot. However by omitting this in the film it almost made the film seem boring to me, not to mention it makes the ending of the film seem rather anticlimactic. One of the most important parts of the entire play was the ending, in which everyone has died and now the kingdom faces an impending attack.

To go back to the humour I mentioned, I really enjoyed the film scene in which Polonius and Hamlet are talking in the library. While in the play, Hamlets response to Polonius’ question about what he is reading is simply “words, words, words,” the film adds more depth. This line can be interpreted in different ways depending on who is reading it, but I truly appreciated the way that Gibson presents it. Each time, he says “words” with a different tone. The first time he seems to ask himself what he’s looking at, and then he confirms that it is, in fact, words and the third time, he loudly informs Polonius of this. By doing this it is apparent of Hamlet’s distaste of Polonius and his lack of caution by answering in this way. He makes it obvious that he’s talking down to Polonius. Another part about this scene that I liked was Zeffirelli’s choice to have Hamlet sitting up above Polonius, to reaffirm the differences between the two men.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-7-32-04-pm  screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-9-07-28-pm

While Gibson played an excellent Hamlet, I was not entirely impressed with the scene in which he kills Polonius. Although the acting itself is good, he doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it at all, by doing this Hamlet appears to no longer be sane, which in the play is something the audience is constantly trying to figure out: is he actually crazy, or is he just pretending so everyone will drop their guard around him?

Zeffirelli did an excellent job of adapting the play into a film by modernizing the language, and cutting the long soliloquys and speeches to shorten the film. He added in bits of humour to ensure entertainment and to keep a more positive attitude throughout. Overall he made sure that even people who aren’t huge fans of Shakespeare could enjoy it and experience it in some way.

With that being said, for Shakespeare fans, he may have left them disappointed with the number of changes made to the story line. What some people may have considered unimportant or monotonous, Shakespeare fans would have looked forward to only to finish the film lacking the experience they would have hoped for.

Andre Retuta: Film Review

Zeffirelli’s rendition of Hamlet (1990) was really interesting to me right from when I first saw it, which is roughly around a couple of years ago.  It is probably my favorite Shakespeare play, regardless of how limited my knowledge of his productions is.

The first time I saw the film, I was intrigued right away by the dark ambience that started the whole movie.  I have always been a fan of movies with a sombre tone which is probably another reason why Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, compared to other renditions, is my favorite.  One thing that I noticed about Zeffirelli’s Hamlet though, is its immediate divergence from Shakespeare’s original script.  The original script opens with the traditional sequence involving the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, while Zeffirelli’s opening is instead a funeral sequence of his own design.  We understand right away how much Hamlet distrusts his uncle Claudius, shown in the opening scene where Claudius starts speaking with Hamlet.  The lines “think of us as of a father; for let the world take note you are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you.” show Claudius’ attempt at good intentions, while Hamlet’s response shows the distrust he holds for him.


While we see right away the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius, we also continue to unravel the fact that Hamlet holds his father in the highest regard as opposed to how he holds Claudius, and this is then consistently reinforced all throughout the film.

Somewhat proof of this comparison between Hamlet’s father and Claudius (or lack thereof), is shown in Hamlet’s first monologue.  In this first soliloquy, Hamlet laments about his father compared to Claudius, so delicately captured with the lines “So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr…”

In this scene as well, Hamlet expresses his disgust with his mother Gertrude about how his she has now intertwined herself with Claudius after Hamlet’s father’s recent passing.


This is described accurately by the lines “But two months dead! – nay, not so much, not two…” and also “Why, should she hang on him as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on: and yet, within a month…”  The scene from the film ended on Hamlet saying “Frailty, thy name is woman!”, which cut off most of Hamlet’s soliloquy written originally, another deviation from Shakespeare’s original piece.


Perhaps the most iconic scene in Hamlet is his famous soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1.  I really like how Zeffirelli introduces this scene, as he starts of from showing Hamlet’s face portraying pure emotion and then pans through the coffins as if to show a subtle longing for death.  Numerous times do we see Hamlet peering at the coffins, also leaning on them as if talking with the idea of the dead being his only audience.  There are also parts in this scene as well that Hamlet looks up at a beaming light, possibly hoping for answers as he ponders thoughts of suicide, before then stepping back into darkness with suggests once again the conflict in his mind – hence, “to be or not to be”.  Finally, this scene was focused more on Hamlet’s monologue itself, that Zeffirelli did not feel the need to put in any background musical score.  I feel that it really captures Shakespeare’s intent of the moment supposedly being dark and sorrowful, while at the same time being powerful and iconic as well.

As a whole, the film – in my humble opinion – is well made from a simple bystander’s point of view.  It may have had some deviations from the original piece that Shakespeare wrote, however I feel that it still captured the emotion and the message that he originally wanted to portray.  The acting in the film also captures the characters that they are trying to portray, yet also distinguished their own style within the character.

Zeffirelli gave a very refreshing take on one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Hamlet.


Pavneet Pahwa: Scene Comparison

I have chosen to compare Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet (RJ) directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and by Baz Luhrmann (1996). Zeffirelli’s version is more conservative, conventional, and true to the text. RJ 1996 on the other hand, is a modern adaptation of the same. While both films draw inspiration from the same text in terms of plot, dialogues and themes, their interpretation of the circumstances and the characters is varied.

Zeffirelli (1968) on left Lurhmann (1996) on right

Left (1968); Right (1996)

The characters’ appearance in RJ 1968 is very authentic and historically-correct. The puffy gowns, veils and hairstyles sweep the audience into a different era, and are likely truer to what Shakespeare would have envisioned. Hussey (Juliet in this version) is a baby-faced, wide-eyed girl who looks very young. This is consistent with the 16th-century setting of the film where marriages occurred at a tender age. Danes (Juliet in RJ 1996), on the contrary, looks older and wiser in comparison. While still dressed appropriately for their roles, the costumes of the characters are significantly less elaborate and more modern—compatible with Lurhmann’s contemporary setting, enriched with technology such as cars, cameras, etc.

Zeffirelli (1968) on top; Lurhmann (1996) at bottom

Top (1968); Right (1996)

The lines, “What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot…” are a part of both versions of RJ. Hussey is hopeful and dreamy about renouncing their names to be together while Danes seems to reason with reality. She even gives the words “any other part/ Of a man,” a playful twist, hinting at male anatomy, which is more acceptable for her character and the time. In the text, Juliet talks to Romeo about coming across as easy: “…if thou think’st I am too quickly won,/ I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay…” These line are present in RJ 1968, and add to the portrayal of an innocent Juliet who does not want to play hard-to-get like other girls. On the contrary, saying such a thing would not be true to Lurhmann’s feistier Juliet and is hence omitted. This difference of character is also seen in the way both the Juliet’s report to their mother in the play—one is very obedient while the other’s tone suggests that she is the mistress of her own will.

Zeffirelli (1968) on right; Lurhmann (1996) on left

Left (1968); Right (1996)

While Zeffirelli’s RJ is more theatrical and dramatic, Lurhmann’s depict a more realistic version of young love. Romeo and Juliet (1968) come across as innocent, humble and flawless souls—almost verging on being surreal. Their 1996 versions however, are deliberately portrayed as immature teenagers. The line, “Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me,” is said loudly by Romeo in both films. Leonard Whiting says it out of passionate love while DiCaprio’s interpretation of it is more rebellious. He stands taller and shouts into the distance, intending for “the kins” to hear his words, knowing full well, the dangers of being a Montague on Capulet property. A similar sense of carelessness is seen when DiCaprio climbs the walls and creates a lot of ruckus and noise as opposed to Whiting, whose entry and climbing are a lot quieter and controlled.

3:45-4:00 (Zeffirelli, 1968)

The intimacy between Romeo and Juliet is more physical and abundant in Lurhmann’s version. Low angle shots of Juliet being admired by Romeo from a distance are soon followed by Juliet coming down to the garden where Romeo sneaks up from behind her. The garden, lighting and pool add to the sensuality of the scene. The lack of sound maintains focus on the conversation while adding to the realism of the film. Romantic, harmonious music then plays and gradually gains intensity alongside the scene as the couple makes promises. Physical interaction between the lovers is limited in Zeffirelli’s RJ, and rightly so, in synchrony with the conservative atmosphere of the era. Their proximity is also physically limited by a thick balcony railing. The use of mid and eye-level camera angles in this film is basic and non-impactful. Romantic music plays in the beginning when Romeo admires Juliet secretly, stops when they are talking, and then resumes when they make promises. This use of classic dramatic music adds to the theatrical air of RJ 1968.

0:00-0:37 Lurhmann, 1996

In conclusion, both films are a tribute to Shakespeare, and prove yet again, that his plays can be film material after all. While both of these versions of RJ have their own place in cinema, I think that Lurhmann’s take on it is more unique and does a better job of drawing in the audience. The realistic modern-day interpretation of the same themes makes the film more relatable and impactful for me.

Ashley Staples: Scene Comparison

Romeo and Juliet is a classic play by William Shakespeare that has been interpreted through many forms of media over the years. In particular, film directors Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann are especially interesting on account of their contrasting takes of the story. They have distinct styles, which is immediately apparent upon watching both films. Comparing the same scene in each movie highlights the differences in choices Zeffirelli and Luhrmann make. The scene I will be focusing on here is Act 1 Scene 5, where Romeo attends the Capulet party and meets Juliet for the first time.

In the Baz Luhrmann version of this scene, the party starts off with high impact. It seems to be from Romeo’s point of view; he is interpreting the world after using drugs. The dizzying effect of slow motion, rapid cuts and close ups of character’s faces reflects Romeo’s experience at the party. This use of cinematography is paired with very bright colours, lights, and flashy costumes, all of which contribute to the frenetic energy of the sequence. The breathless activity finally culminates as Romeo dunks his head in water and comes to his senses. An immediate change of pace takes hold. The shots are longer, as there is slow panning of Romeo’s surroundings. A peaceful and romantic song is being sung over a quiet crowd, and Romeo enjoys the beauty of an aquarium. Very much like the fish swimming through the water, the mood is serene and dreamlike. Juliet’s appearance on the other side of the glass attracts Romeo’s attention and they watch each other for a long time through the water barrier. The soft blue lighting in this moment adds to the peaceful atmosphere.


Luhrmann’s approach to this scene seems to consist of volatile shifts — the rapid movement and energy in one sequence is immediately followed by calm and sensitivity in the next. I think this ultimately adds an element of mystery, especially when the dialogue is scarce. Up to this point, only two lines have been said by any of the characters. The shifts in mood within this scene continue with the overarching surrealism that is paramount in Luhrmann’s style. For example, Juliet is whisked away before Romeo can speak to her, and while she is dancing, he watches her in a kind of romantic daze. Though people are obviously talking in the background, it is not heard what is being said, because from Romeo’s perspective, Juliet is all that matters. Her movements are slowed down, and when it cuts back to reflect on Romeo’s face, his expression is one of awe. Once they are finally reunited, the feeling of intensity and danger returns — the audience knows that they are enemies, and the mood plays on that knowledge. The whispering delivery of the lines, the quick cuts and movements between faces all work up to the moment of their first kiss, which is fraught with peril by the prying eyes of Juliet’s clan.


The scene ends as Romeo runs off and Tybalt says the lines, “I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall/ Now with seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.” Romeo and Juliet (1.5.91-92) In the original play, these lines are spoken before Romeo and Juliet even meet, but their placement at the end of this scene is very impactful and closes the scene with a foreboding mood — foreshadowing what is to come later.


In contrast, Zeffirelli’s take on this scene is shorter, calmer, and more dialogue heavy. I’d go as far to compare it to the use of ‘soft romance’, which is characterized by innocence, sweetness, and overall security; as opposed to ‘hard romance’ which is far more dramatic and contains threatening elements. While Luhrmann’s take definitely incorporated the sense of threat into his scene, Zeffirelli focuses more on the festivity and the innocent curiosity of the two lovers. The cuts between characters are slower, the music calmer and there is a lot more talking in general. the sequence where Juliet dances within a whirlwind of people is exciting, but not the extent of madness like with Luhrmann. the while atmosphere is more romantic and far less hostile. The threat of Tybalt is not emphasized, and the scene ends just as Romeo realizes who Juliet is.

In conclusion, while both directors do an excellent job of encapsulating the youthful romance between Romeo and Juliet, both have distinct styles that emphasize different components of their respective films.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. W. F. Langford. Toronto: Longmans Canada Limited,1962. Print.

Katarina Nedeljakova: Film Review

Film Review: Nunn’s Twelfth Night

Nunn's Twelfth Night (1996)

Nunn’s Twelfth Night (1996)

Nunn’s Twelfth Night (1996) is a modern take on the classical Shakespearean comedy. Created during the so-called renaissance of commercialized Shakespeare film in the 1990’s, elements of this play reflect both its predecessor as well as a more modernized style. From a variety of dramatic shots to quickly changing musical scores, contrasting elements of film are used to deepen the sense of drama. Many parallels are also present in the play, carefully placed to emphasize the irony of the play.

What I found noteworthy in Act I was the background music in the opening scene. Once Viola awoke on the beach, a soft orchestra was played as she reminisced over her brother, who she believed had drowned. However as the guards galloped in, the whole mood of the scene changed; in a matter of seconds the audience got the feeling of great urgency simply by changing the score to a fast paced orchestra. This, paired with quick tracking shots of the survivors running through the forest, establishes the setting and the mood (while giving important background information not explicitly stated in the play) in one montage.

There is a powerful parallel also present when Viola first sees Olivia mourning. After questioning the Captain, it is revealed that Olivia’s brother has recently died, mirroring Viola’s situation. Conveyed by flashes between medium and long shots, we are given the impression that even though they have never met, Viola and Olivia are not that different. This scene serves as a precursor to the dramatic irony that Twelfth Night consists of, mostly later on when Olivia falls in love with Viola (disguised as Cesario).Violaolivia

As the film progresses, both contrasts and parallels seen between many of the remaining scenes. When the drunken party is playing music in the kitchen (at 45:00), the same song is played in the background of the scene when Viola and Duke Orsino play a game of cards. This time, the music is a connection between the two scenes instead of a tool used to create contrast as discussed previously. The main difference in the two scenes is the mood. In the scene with Duke Orsino and Viola the background is a reddish hue, giving the viewer gets a sense of warmth and intimacy.

This scene has warmer colors and a more intimate feel

This scene has warmer colors and a more intimate feel

This is intensifies the dramatic irony, as it is obvious to the audience that Viola is in love with Orsino. When the scenes change, it is a stark contrast. Drunk Fester is singing the same song that was playing in the previous scene, but paired with the setting a much colder atmosphere is given. The background has a blue tint and is set in a bare kitchen. However, the acting and close up shots of the listeners’ faces reveal that the Fester’s song also holds some meaning for them.

Festers' drunken singing

Festers’ drunken singing


While this overlap of Act II Scene III and the first half of Act II Scene IV was well done, I was surprised to see that the entirety of Act II Scene IV was not kept as one scene in the film. The second half of Act II Scene IV (as written in the original play) took place much later in the movie and was staged as an argument between Cesario and the Duke. Compared to the intimate moment they shared earlier in the cozy living quarters, this scene took place outdoors with the ocean crashing angrily in the background. This, along with the blue lighting and the rocky setting, gives viewers the impression that Viola is feeling negative emotions. She is distraught and unable to contain her love for the Duke any longer. From the directors and filmmakers perspective, it is understandable that the second half was pushed to later on in the movie, to preserve the slow pacing during the first half of Nunn’s Twelfth Night.

Act II Scene IV pt.2 is a stark contrast to pt.1

Act II Scene IV pt.2 is a stark contrast to pt.1

In my opinion, Nunn balanced the original play with the demand for commercial Shakespeare movies well. He managed to keep the light mood of comedy, while making use of the many elements of film. This included dramatic events that not only set the pace of the movie, but heightened a sense of dramatic irony for the viewer, which is what gave Twelfth Night its riveting feel.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare plays “Twelfth Night”:

Nunn’s Twelfth Night 1996:

Shakespeare and Film, A Norton Guide, Samuel Crowl



Jordin Cummings: Film Review

In this fantastical version of “Romeo + Juliet” Baz Luhrmann keeps the text almost exact but sets the movie in a version of modern days. It is a version of modern days due to the weird mix up Luhrmann has going on. There is slo-motion, increases in time, weird outfits for the Montagues, plus an introduction to a crazy party with pressed pills. This blog post will discuss how Luhrmann adapts the visuals to the text to create a very interesting take on “Romeo and Juliet”.

In Act II Scene II, Luhrmann chooses to shoot the balcony scene in a pool-house. Luhrmann cuts a lot of text in this scene and instead shoots a close up kissing scene with uplifting music. This creates a more sexually charged atmosphere due to the lack of talking and added silky touching. It is clear these teens share a higher level of intimacy even though they just met at a party for what basically amounts to ‘7 minutes in heaven’ but in an elevator. Leonardo DiCaprio shows his take on Romeo as headstrong and carefree when he goes about shouting lines even though they could get caught. Luhrmann gives a true ode to Shakespeare when Claire Danes, Juliet, goes back up to her balcony and DiCaprio climbs the trellis to give her a final kiss.

Nurse in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” is presented as much more personable and definite comic relief. Moving away from the orchard in Act II Scene V of Shakespeare, Luhrmann chooses to make the setting Nurse’s apartment. This allows the relationship between Juliet and Miriam Margolyes, Nurse, to be presented as far more intimate. Nurse ends up being more of a companion than a keeper. Danes gets right behind Margolyes to give her a massage showing their more personal take on the relationship of these two women. Margolyes is a very comical actor with exaggerated facial expressions and a very stereotypical, overly caring, Latina mama attitude. Margolyes clearly does not believe Nurse to be a prude in any way.

In contrast to Act II, which stays fairly true to Shakespeare’s timeline, Act III has been split up to create more drama around Mercutio’s death. Instead of killing Mercutio right away, DiCaprio spirals out and gets into a game of chicken which causes Tybalt to crash his car. Only after all of this and many shouted and repeated lines does DiCaprio finally shoot Tybalt. This part of the movie is cut with part of what is Act III Scene II in the play where Danes gives a bit of a monologue professing love for Romeo. This interjection of joy makes the shooting of Tybalt by Romeo more intense since Juliet’s love just killed her cousin. The music is biblical and epic or brooding and almost silent making Act III far less comical and considerably more dark than Act II.

In the end I cannot tell if I love or hate this movie. It reminds me of “Idiocracy” crossed with the part in “Back to the Future” where they actually go to the future meets “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. It is definitely weird. Not to mention the use of Shakespeare’s text in a modern setting is also odd. At the same time, Luhrmann manages to stay kind of true to Shakespeare in a really weird way. The use of such young actors and Nurse being so approachable, as well as Friar Laurence being so cool with his huge back tattoo of a cross, adds an appeal to my more contemporary tastes. It is one of those movies you would have to watch at least twice to know how you really feel.


Works Cited

Romeo + Juliet. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Miriam Margolyes, Twentieth Century Fox, 1996.

Luhrmann, Baz. “Romeo + Juliet (3/5) Movie CLIP – 1,000 Times Goodnight (1996) HD.” Youtube, uploaded by Movieclips, 9 October 2015,

Marisol Calzada: Film Review (Twelfth Night 1996)

Trevor Nunn was the director of the film, Twelfth Night: Or What You Will. It’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which is a romantic comedy about siblings that become separated in a shipwreck, mistaken identities, and true love. It starts off at sea during which a storm begins leaving twin siblings, Sebastian and Viola, shipwrecked believing that the other one has died, and thus each starting a new life when each is separately washed up to the shores of an ancient country called Illyria. Sebastian decides to lay low with the help of his new friend, Antonio. Believing that being a woman in Illyria would be a threat, Viola disguises herself as a man by dressing in her brothers uniform, cutting her hair off, and pasting a false mustache on her face, and going by the name Cesario. She ends up befriending the Duke of Illyria, Orsinio, who is madly in love with Lady Olivia. A problem arises when Lady Olivia falls in love with Cesario (actually Viola), and Viola falls in love with Orsinio. Not being able to tell either on that she is a woman, Viola creates scenes that are very entertaining and humorous to the audience watching.

Nunn, who was previously the Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and later of the Royal Nation Theater, was more than qualified to adapt such a great Shakespeare play to film. Prior to directing Twelfth Night, he had directed musicals, dramas, and operas for the stage, as well as being nominated and winning multiple Tony Awards and Laurence Olivier Awards. His experience with successfully transforming literature into scripts for the stage allowed him to transform Shakespeare literature into film. He ultimately chose to uphold the integrity of the play by keeping it set in Illyria, but took the freedom to update the play’s time and overall setting to the 19th Century. He also chose to reorder the sequence of some scenes in order for back-story of the play to make sense on film. The naturally comedic feeling of this Shakespeare play ultimately allowed Nunn to create a film from his interpretations of the film while upholding the films integrity by keeping the key elements of the plot intact.

The modern stories of disguise are rarely realistic, which is why Nunn chose to add the beginning scene where it is determined that Sebastian and Viola are professional performers; thus making the audience believe that Viola’s disguise later on would be credible.

It is critical that casting is done properly and that only actors that understand the importance of rhythm in Shakespeare’s writing are chosen. Nunn’s previous experience with the RSC provided him with an advantage in casting because he knows the importance of not only the actors rhythm, but also the chemistry between the actors, especially when there is any form of romance in the story. Helena Bonham Carter was the perfect actress for the role of Olivia. She was able to capture the essence of the sweet and naïve character that has fallen for the woman disguised as a man; this simply and effortlessly adds to the comedic feel of the story. Imogen Stubbs (Viola) and Steven Mackintosh (Sebastian) make for a great pair on the screen. The chemistry and bond that real life siblings would have cannot only be seen on the screen, but the sincerity of the relationship can be “felt” through the screen. Not only was the casting perfect because of the bond the two actors created on screen, but also because the two actually look alike and could genuinely pass as siblings in real life. Nunn definitely used this to his advantage and filmed them in such a way that magnified and showcased their striking similarities.


In Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, there is fairytale-like feeling to them. This was echoed in the setting of the film as well as the editing. The castle that Olivia lives in reminds us of the castles that were in the fairytales that we grew up with such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast; this can play into our idea of true love.


Overall the movie is a great interpretation of a very popular Shakespeare play that does justice to Shakespeare’s language, writing, and vision. Nunn did a very good job of making the story his own as well as having creative freedom with the setting, all without disrespecting Shakespeare’s work. Ultimately it simplifies Shakespeare’s language and allows younger generations to be captivated by Shakespeare’s works.

Taylor McDonald Film Review

In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 remake of the classic tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, he uses the mixture of modern setting and Shakespeare’s language to create a movie that makes Shakespeare accessible to a new generation. Luhrmann’s film is filled with themes of destiny and the inevitability of the lover’s tragic end. The first example of the destined tragedy of their story is in the opening of the movie.

Luhrmann opens the film with a news report about Romeo and Juliets tragic ending. This use of having the narrative start at the end of the story before it cuts back to events as they take place add to that sense of inevitability. The audience gets a sense that the ending is already set, that it is unchangeable, and we are just seeing the events that lead to that destined end. Another perfect example of this is the scene of Romeo and Juliets’s first kiss in the elevator. 

In this scene as Luhrmann cuts between Juliet in Romeos embrace and then Juliet’s mother it illustrates Juliet’s fear at being seen by her mother but she is unwilling to remove herself from his embrace. It shows that just as their love is destined so too is this first kiss destined and they are both powerless to stop it. As their first embrace is interrupted and they learn of each others families this symbolizes the inevitability of the tragic end to the story of their love. Another scene which adds to the audience’s sense that this tragic end is unavoidable is Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.

In this scene Romeo comes upon his love’s apparent dead body and ingests poison to join her slumber. As he is getting ready to take the poison Luhrmann cuts between him and shots of Juliet stirring. If Romeo would only look down he could see her moving and the tragedy could be avoided. He doesn’t see her movement however and he takes the poison just as Juliet wakes up and Juliet is forced to watch him die. As Juliet then takes up Romeo’s gun to join him the film is silent. The only sound is Juliet’s sobs and the click of the gun being readied to fire. In this scene the audience is holding their breath, willing the outcome to change, and the silence of the scene represents that. The gunshot is the audience releasing that held breath as the destined, tragic end comes to it’s fateful conclusion.

Kaitlin Osterlund: Film Review (Romeo + Juliet)

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet film interestingly interprets Shakespeare’s original Romeo and Juliet play, by placing the traditional play in a modern 90’s setting. Many stylistic choices were made in this film that allowed the opposing script and setting to merge for a very unique interpretation on the story of Romeo and Juliet.

In the beginning of the film, the chorus gives an introduction, shown in the following YouTube clip.

Most other Shakespeare films do not include the chorus, but will visually describe the setting through shots and sequences that omit narrative descriptions. Luhrmann decided to keep the chorus to describe how his film would follow the traditional Shakespearian script in a modern 90’s setting. He did this by displaying the narrative in a news broadcast on an old television. The broadcaster spoke the lines from the original play, and she was composed in the manner that a news broadcaster would be on modern television of the 90’s. I found that this method of using the chorus set the scene very well for the film, allowing me to understand how the rest of the film would be portrayed, with an old Shakespearian dialogue in a modern 90’s world. Had the chorus not introduced the proceedings of the film with visual references to the 90’s, the juxtaposition of the modern times with the unmodified Shakespearian script would have created confusion between the visual setting and dialogue of the film. Luhrmann’s choice of incorporating the chorus allowed me as a viewer to seamlessly merge the Shakespearian dialogue and 90’s visual setting before the film proceeded into the story.

The next scene I would like to focus on is the scene when Mercutio is killed by Tibalt, shown in the following film clip from YouTube.

Mercutio calls his wound “a scratch” (Shakespeare, Evans, & Brooke, 1984, p. 3.1.60) when he is stabbed by Tibalt’s sword. Luhrmann, having retained much of Shakespeare’s original lines within his film, could not omit this well-known line. However, the characters all used guns rather than swords. If Mercutio had been struck by a bullet, it would have left a wound that could not be labeled as a scratch, and his death may have been shorter lived. Because of this, I believe that Luhrmann decided to have Mercutio fall into broken glass when pushed by Tibalt instead of being shot. This choice by Luhrmann allowed for Mercutio’s dialogue to remain unchanged from the traditional Shakespeare script. Mercutio could say that that the glass that impaled him left only a scratch. Mercutio’s death was also longer lived with this type of injury, rather than being shot by a bullet, which allowed him to carry out his long dialogue before his actual death. The Shakespearian script remained unchanged with this change in the means of Mercutio’s death in the film.

The last scene is after Mercutio’s death where Romeo kills Tibalt, seen in this last film clip from YouTube.

In this scene, Romeo acts out of rage after the death of Mercutio and fires multiple shots at Tibalt. I found it interesting that when Romeo shoots Tibalt, there is a sudden flash cut to Juliet. As soon as we see Juliet looking distressed, Romeo stops firing shots and has a look of realization that he was in a blind rage. This addition of Juliet to the scene allows viewers to understand that the thought of Juliet snapped Romeo out of his cloud of rage, when there was no direct dialogue explaining Romeo’s thoughts. Juliet was not directly in the scene, since later in the film we see Juliet learning about Tibalt’s death, so she was instead a part of Romeo’s thoughts. Without this cut, we would not understand why Romeo suddenly stopped firing his gun. Having Juliet flash across the screen gives viewers a brief view into Romeo’s mind, allowing viewers to understand his train of thought when he realizes the implications of his actions and the damage those actions would result for him and his star-crossed lover.

In all, I enjoyed this film, and appreciated Luhrmann’s ability to merge the script and setting in a very unique and interesting way to interpret as a viewer. It brings Romeo and Juliet into a modern light that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of viewers in the present while maintaining the integrity of Shakespeare’s script.

Work Cited:

Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and Arthur Brooke. Romeo and Juliet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.