This scene comparison is from Shakespeare’s: Romeo and Juliet. Personally, don’t like this play at all. The romanticized tragic end of the youngsters, foolishness and irrationality of Romeo and Juliet in the name of true love, the fickleness of Romeo, Juliet’s naiveté and the selfishness of their families not accepting their relationship (through their own personal grudges) which drives the youngsters to extreme rebellion makes for a very frustrating experience as a whole whether it is being watched or read. Another reason I chose this play is because they were portrayed in two ways that contrast each other completely and yet bring across the play in a way that did not change my feelings on the play.
I chose to do the famous Act 2 Scene 2 because of the tendency to portray this scene in a certain way it might have been similar in both films but that was not the case.
The setting in Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” with it’s classical landscapes in 14th-century Renaissance Italy while Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” modern day Verona Beach, California. The films automatically follow the tone set from these directing decisions – such as the use of swords in the 1968 film in comparison to the Sword 9mm series gun in the 1996 version- both effective for styles implemented to tell the story.
The actors in each film are very different in terms of age and acting prowess. In the 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet (Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey) are closer to the age (16 and 14) as stated in the play however are both untrained. This enhances the sense of innocence and loss thereof throughout the play yet retaining the theme of youth and passion. In the 1996 version both actors are older (Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio) than in the play and there is a stronger themes of sexuality rather than innocence portrayed which also identifies with today’s perception of relationships.
In the 1968 version we see Romeo in a garden looking up at he balcony before whispering “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” (2.2.2-3) and the cameras pans to reveal Juliet. This adds a dramatic effect to this scene which gives off a feeling of curiosity and wonder at this new love. However, in the 1996 version we see Romeo immediately starting to climb and then land in Juliet’s back yard with the glistening water where he proceeds to fumble and over everything adding comedy into the scene. This emphasizes the intrusion of Romeo into a place he does not belong but the symbol of the water represents the purity of their new love while the clumsiness of Romeo adds charm to his character. Later on they are both in the water almost encapsulated in their own world surrounded by the water.
When comparing editing, the 1968 version is slower and less theatrical which can be a positive and a negative thing. The simplicity of the editing makes for more focus on the dialogue and acting which when compared to the other-the-top editing in the 1996 version lets the audience engage more in the film and make for a better watch regardless of the vocabulary. Luhrmann’s faced paced music and dramatic camera shots correspond with the feelings of the audience watching the film. The lights used in the 1996 version are more vibrant and changing in this scene when compared to the 1996 version. The underwater shots in Luhrmann’s version really left an impression on me while Zifferlli’s balcony scene tended to be more on the calm side.
During Juliet’s soliloquy in the 1968 version, the camera is at a long, low angle shot of Juliet looking into the distance on the balcony thinking of Romeo (an unattainable love) while in the 1996 version, there is a closer, high angle shot of Juliet and she is looking upwards. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet.” (2.2.43-44)
The costumes in the scene are similar due to Juliet being in a nightgown in both scenes, however the 1968 version shows Juliet’s gown to be significantly more low cut than the older actress in the 1996 version. I think this is done to add a sense of maturity to the younger actress which is slightly more unlikable to me (as she comes across completely blinded by this new love and completely loses her sense of self without Romeo). While in the 1996 version, a sense of modesty or innocence is added to the older Claire Danes who portrays a more intellectual and deeper character of Juliet- I also find her expressions so much more sassy.
This iconic scene has elements that are unique to them yet still bring forth the foolish love between these two young lovers. Both directors appealed to the audience of the time and executed their themes consistently through the film and are brilliant for what they are. Different films but same story: Foolish young love and foolish deaths that is in no way romantic. Although, I would like a guy to sneak into my garden at night to woo me – that might be a tad romantic- even I have to admit that.
Luhrmann, B., Martinelli, G. (1996) Romeo and juliet [Film]. Mexico: Twentieth Century Fox
Shakespeare, W. (1597). Romeo and Juliet [Play]
Shakespeare, et al., (1968) “Franco Zeffirelli’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet”