Malyuin Noor- Film Review

Baz Luhrmann 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, simply titled Romeo + Juliet, is definitely an interesting take on the play. The film, which set in Verona Park State, is a modernize take on the popular play about love and tragedy. Luhrmann casted actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes to be his Starr-crossed lovers. Now if you were expecting men in tights and soft violin music playing in the background, you are in for a surprise. Everything about the film screams 21st century. To make the film more relatable, the director made everything too loud, too flashy, and too fast.

Right from the beginning, Luhrmann wants us to be prepared for the tragedy that will unfold. His opening scene is a simple television screen on a black backdrop of a news anchor reporting on the death of the children of feuding families of Capulet and Montague. Then the director flash cuts through everything that leads up to the tragic incident with a montage and very loud music.


Throughout the film the director set the tone of different scenes with very dramatic climate changes. I think one of the most pivotal scenes was when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt killed Romeo’s best friend Mercutio. You could feel Romeo’s anguish at the injustice and loss of his good friend. The sky got dark, you could hear thunder clapping in the background, and then it starts raining. The music got progressively louder and more manic the closer Romeo gets to Tybalt.

I remember the first I watched this film and how much I enjoyed it. It seemed so far removed from the complicated readings I had to do for my 9th grade English class. This was something I could relate to. But watching it again with a new set of eyes, more mature eyes, was a new experience. The Shakespearean English that the director and screenplay writer Craig Pearce decided to use made it a bit difficult to follow because of the pace at which the story line progressed. I always wondered why they modernized everything except for the way they spoke. I felt there was disconnect between what my eyes were seeing and what I was hearing. I sometimes felt that this overshadowed the incredible assembly of actors and their talents.

Christian Tiberi: Film Review

Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999) is an interesting take on one of Shakespeare’s lesser filmed plays. Blending modern and ancient, Taymor creates a visual masterpiece that is complemented by the outstanding performance of Anthony Hopkins as Titus.


Taymor chooses to mostly stay true to Shakespeare’s text, but instead plays with it by changing the aesthetics of the play. The movie adopts an aesthetic that is representative of ancient Rome while modernizing it. My two favourite examples of this is the opening scene of the movie and the costumes of the characters.


The opening scene is comprised of a mixture of still shots and slow pan shots in the Colosseum of Rome as Titus and his army return from battle with the Goths. In this scene, the dominance of the Roman army under Titus is established. Taymor also uses this scene to blend the ancient setting of the play with the modern aesthetic she is looking for. The Roman army, appearing to resemble the Terracotta warriors, marches in a ritualistic way to celebrate their victory. The impressive machinery of the Romans is contrasted with motorcycles (also dressed up in a Terracotta style). In this opening scene, I feel Taymor is trying to impose the power of the Roman Empire upon the viewer. Placing ancient Roman ritual and modern technology in the same scene gives the feeling of a Rome that never died, and a Rome that will continue to be victorious.


Taymor also creates this effect because of the way she shoots the scene. As mentioned, Taymor uses a hybrid of still shots and slow pan shots, each with their benefits. The still shots allow the viewer to watch the massive army march in sync, allowing the army to intimidate the viewer. In the pan shots, we are able to see the size and strength of the army. Taymor usually pans in from above, turning the focus from narrow to wide. This gives the viewer an idea about the size and greatness of the army, once again reinforcing the greatness of Rome.

We are introduced to more of the modern imagery through the costumes of characters.


Saturninus, played by Alan Cumming, continues the mix of ancient and modern. In this particular image, we can see a combination of a Roman senator’s toga and the modern senator’s suit. This is the typical dress for characters, once again furthering the idea of a eternal Rome. Taymor’s visual choices keeps this interpretation of Titus Andronicus her own, allowing a modern audience to be grounded in the greatness of the Empire even though that may not necessarily be as familiar with the Roman era as someone in the Renaissance.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is the acting performance of Anthony Hopkins as the title character. I found Hopkins to be absolutely convincing in every scene he was in. In the early scenes of the movie, his performance was calm and collected while effectively portraying a powerful and dominating general of Rome. I was most impressed with Hopkins when Titus was following through with his revenge against Tamora and Lucius.

As the scene unfolds, Hopkins remains calm while also being breathtakingly terrifying. Perhaps due to his previous experience playing a maniacal murderer (The Silence of the Lambs), Hopkins delivers a performance that is both blood-chilling and effective. When he is delivering his monologue to Chiron and Demetrius, Hopkins is entertainingly cruel, almost downplaying the graphic violence present in this scene.

The later half of the above clip, the climax of the film, is my favourite moment of the entire film just because of Hopkins’ acting. When he is serving the pies containing Chiron and Demetrius to Tamora, Saturninus and company, Hopkins continues this facade of calmness above Titus’ impending revenge. After killing his own daughter Lavinia, Hopkins launches into a raving explanation of his revenge plot, revealing the disturbing details to Tamora before killing her. The dramatic buildup in the scene is fulfilling because of this monologue. Hopkins breaking from his stoic tone into a violent and enthusiastic one is satisfying, both for the character and the viewer. Despite the depravity of his actions, you can’t help but cheer for Titus when Hopkins delivers this speech.

Overall, Titus is a very interesting and captivating film from a visual perspective, but it is the acting of Anthony Hopkins that truly makes this movie an enjoyable adaptation of Shakespeare.


Shoshanna Paperny- Film Review (Romeo + Juliet)

In Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of the famous Shakespearean play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the director takes a modern and edgy spin on the famous love story. Although most people are familiar with the general premise of the play, Shakespearean dialect is often hard to follow. In order to break the barrier between those familiar with the seemingly foreign language and that of the general population, Luhrmann compensates for the difficult script with a clear and dramatic editing style. One tactic that this film relies upon to emphasize the dialog is music. In many of the scenes the soundtrack is directly related to the lines that are being delivered by the actors, and the general meaning behind the scene. With the help of musical director, Nellee Hooper, Luhrmann utilizes music as a powerful tool to enhance the mood and overall atmosphere of his film.

The first soundtrack in the playlist is Garbage’s song, #1 Crush. The erie lyrics of the chorus chant on and on, “I would die for you.” The hauntingly beautiful song summarizes the essence of how Romeo and Juliet feel for one another, along with foreshadowing their eventual  fate. The song is strategically placed into Act IV, scene 1. At this point Juliet is hysterical about her unavoidable future of having to wed Paris. She seeks the help of Friar Laurence, and in despair, threatens to take her own life. It is in this scene that the Friar comes up with the dramatic plan to fake Juliet’s death in order to be with Romeo. As emphasized by the song ‘#1 Crush’, it describes how Juliet is literally willing to die for Romeo. It also speaks to their disturbing degree of passionate love for one another. It is almost as if Luhrmann is presenting the view that the love the two share is so strong that it is unhealthy.


Yet another excellent use of soundtrack was the addition of the hit song, “Love Fool”, by the Cardigans. This song is placed in Act 2, scene 4, where the Nurse comes to Romeo with her concerns of his intentions with Juliet. She says to him, “if ye should lead her in a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour, as they say; for the lady is young; and therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an ill thing”. Romeo Calms her by explaining his plan to marry Juliet. Her happiness is accompanied by the lyrics, “love me love me say that you’ll love me, fool me fool me, go on and fool me”. It emphasizes that the nurse’s concerns of Juliet being led into a ‘fools paradise’, are reassured by Romeos promise of commitment and love to Juliet. It also indicates how Romeo truly does not care about anyone but Juliet and his undying love for her. This message is perfectly presented in the lyrics of the song that say, “I don’t care ‘bout anything but you.”

Finally the beautiful song, “I’m Kissing You”, sung by Des’Ree, is played throughout the film in different scenes. The first time the song is heard is Act 1, scene 5. It is here where Romeo and Juliet lay eyes on each other for the first time and share their first kiss. They instantly fall in love, as they see each other. Despite Romeo’s heartache over Rosaline, and Juliet’s concern over her overbearing mother, everything seems to disappear when they see one another. The same phenomenon occurs in Act III, scene 4 (1:16:59), of the film. Romeo has just discovered that he is to be banished from Verona, and Juliet is heartbroken over the fact that her husband has murdered her cousin. However, Romeo comes to see Juliet in her chambers and as they reunite “I”m Kissing You”, is played yet again. As they see and kiss each other, just like the first time they met, everything else disappears and seems to be ok.

Baz Luhmann and Nellee Hooper, had songs constructed and re-edited for the purpose of enhancing Romeo + Juliet’s general accessibility. Luhermann decides to add another layer of poetry into his rendition of the Shakespeare’s play- the poetry of modern song. Each of these songs, speak to the love that is explained in Shakespeare’s original playwright of Romeo and Juliet. However, this modern element successfully works to advance the audience’s understanding of the film, but also adds entertainment value not found in more traditional variations of the film.

#english311 #romeo+juliet #bazluhrmann #soundtrack #music

Daniel Leong: Scene Comparison

While the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 was undoubtedly of paramount importance to the immortalizing of Hamlet as a play, I would argue that in film, Act 2 Scene 2 warrants just as much, if not more, scrutiny and discussion. In particular, there is much to be said about the differences in creative decisions made by directors Zeffirelli and Doran in terms of text splicing, angles, character direction, and choice of visuals, particularly in Hamlet’s short interrogation of his friends but also in the ending soliloquy.

Perhaps the most readily apparent difference between these versions is that Zeffirelli chooses on more than one occasion to change the original order of events or, in some cases, omit lines entirely. With reference to the text, Zeffirelli places the “to be or not to be” soliloquy directly before Hamlet’s friendly encounter with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, then skips forward from the players’ arrival into just after the First Player’s speech. He then moves backwards to the “Flourish of trumpets within” before jumping forward again into halfway through the closing soliloquy. In my opinion, Zeffirelli’s new sequence of events does an admirable job of simplifying the plot without detracting too much from the meaning, as we still have Hamlet’s brooding, his interactions with other characters, and his resulting rage. However, that isn’t to say that Zeffirelli’s is necessarily better; in fact, his decisions almost give us a shallower Hamlet whose motivations and thoughtsare more generic and easy to understand. By contrast, Doran’s Hamlet follows the text exactly, sacrificing simplicity in favor of preserving the complexity of Hamlet’s character and motivations.

The same effect of showing two different Hamlets can be seen in each director’s choice of how to direct Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern during Hamlet’s short interrogation of them. When he first asks if they were sent for, Zeffirelli alternates between head-on shots of Rosencrantz/Guildenstern sitting and lower angle shots of Hamlet’s face, right up until Hamlet reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, when all three are visible.

Zeffirelli uses these shots to perpetuate the idea of a two-against-one scenario until Hamlet (Whose power is accentuated by low-angle shots) intrudes upon their space and angrily reveals their secret, toppling Rosencrantz’s chair before Guildenstern confesses. Hamlet then steps out from under the shelter into the light and comments upon its poor quality.

Through clever use of angles and character direction in this scene, Zeffirelli parallels exactly what Hamlet intends to do with Claudius and Gertrude: get close to them, accuse them, topple the “throne” and step happily out into the sunlight alone while cursing the place from whence he came.

(Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, 55:00)

Doran achieves the same two-versus-one effect by showing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern facing Hamlet, but leaves a perfect space between the two for Hamlet as though waiting for him to join them. When Hamlet, again, reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, Doran does have Hamlet join them, but with an intimidating expectant glare rather than friendly acquiescence or violence. Doran’s Hamlet even goes so far as to declare that “If you love me, hold not off” where Zeffirelli’s does not. The difference, then, in how each director uses directs characters and angles to show a different take on the text is clear. Where Zeffirelli’s muscular, manly, low-angle Hamlet uses brute force to get an answer, Doran’s cunning, thoughtful, straight-angle Hamlet employs guilt and emotional blackmail. (9:45) (3:41)

Finally, both directors’ portrayal of the soliloquy primarily combine elements of lighting, angles, and character direction to create a Hamlet who goes from angry to defeated to cunning within seconds of each other. “Am I a coward?” and also “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!” are both included with similar tones in each version, however, Zeffirelli uses exposure to light to emphasize Hamlet’s weakness whereas Doran uses the contrast between low-angle (Before “O, vengeance!”) and high-angle (Afterwards) shots. When conceiving of the idea to use the players as a means to expose Claudius, Doran’s Hamlet differs from Zeffirelli’s again in that the slowly accelerating camera is used instead of intentionally angled shots of the players and light/dark contrast to show an ominous, cunning Hamlet and a scheming, vengeful Hamlet respectively.



Clearly, both versions of Act 2 Scene 2 have their merits and demerits, Zeffirelli’s interpretation being easier to understand but less profound and Doran’s showing respect to the text at the expense of general comprehensibility.

Tekla McIlhargey: Film Review


I was immediately intrigued by the opening scene of Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will when we were shown a clip in class and so it was an easy decision to write my film review on this specific film.  I found that with the breathtaking location choices to the purposeful use of light and dark I was drawn into the film and the story yet not overwhelmed by one particular film technique.  A compelling choice of Shakespeare’s original text was used and unfamiliar words were swapped for specific words more understandable for modern audience.  I found this technique would likely be useful in allowing a wider audience to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s best (in my opinion) comedic romances.

In act one, scene five, when Viola disguised as Cesario and Olivia meet for the first time, Viola is brought into a dark room where it is hard to see much of anything.  There is no sound except for the soft clicking of a clock.  This choice of natural lighting and lack of music work well with Violas initial confusion and consistent request for confirmation that Olivia is indeed the lady of the house.  As the text between Viola and Olivia becomes more personal, we see a pique in Olivia’s interest through close camera shots of her big expressive eyes and we see Viola thrust open the curtains to blind Olivia with light. We see the two end the visit on an intimate note out in the garden with Viola yelling “Olivia!” bolding and much to Olivia’s pleasant surprise, seen through an up close shot of Olivia’s expression.  They are fully in the light of the sun. Olivia has moved from a dark sorrowful place to a light loving place, both personally and visually.


In act two, scene four, we find Viola, Orsino and Feste alone in a small, dark lit cabin.  This is not similar to Shakespeare’s original text as there is a larger group written in the original, however, the dialogue between the characters is similar and Feste’s song is identical.  Once again, I found the choice of natural lighting worked well with the scene, it is intimate and allows for the audience to behold a very close and seductive relationship between Viola and Orsino.  As Feste is singing the camera breaks between short shots of Feste singing and longer, slower shots of Viola and Orsino moving their heads closer to one other and almost kissing.  The darkness and natural lighting, the low, soft music and slow camera movements makes for a very intimate scene.


The final scene of the play is act five, scene one.   Although this is not the last scene of the movie, it is, in my opinion, the most tense.  We watch quick shots as the quarrel and confusion escalade between the characters.  The look of confusion on Olivia’s face when she first welcomes Viola and Orsino to her home is a choice by actress Helena Bonham Carter to show her confusion as to why her ‘husband’ has arrived with Orsino and seems just fine with Orsino’s expression of adoration without her having to say a word.  The scene continues through quick up close shots and longer wide angle shots while we watch the cast and the emotion grow.  The perplexity and then clarity on the actors faces brings the audience to the climax as we watch the slow lingering shot of Olivia and her words, straight from Shakespeare’s text, “most wonderful”.


The use of music, scene location and natural lighting, as well as the choice exerts from Shakespeare’s original text created an intense build up and finale that was exactly what the audience would have been waiting for.  As the film closes there is sequence of long shots with the characters dispersing towards their futures and Feste dancing merrily away singing; as an audience it feels we have been given a fair and comfortable ending.


Cai Samphire: Film Review

Twelfth Night by Trevor Nunn is a highly enjoyable adaption of the play. Throughout the entire film, the idea of gender role reversals and the hi-jinx that comes with it is never forgotten, along with the small hints of dramatic irony in the entire film. A lot of the strengths in Nunn’s adaption come from the use of sound. Dialogue is never lost in the scenes, and there were a few instances of song which bridged awkward gaps or helped establish character. For example, take the scene where Feste is singing O Mistress Mine.

The way that the scene is laid out is fairly expressive of the entire movie. Everything before this scene was setting up the relationships and characters. It is this scene that really sets the tone and begins the hi-jinx in the movie. Cutting between Olivia and Orsino’s court, there is a musical bridge between the entire scene. Originally sung by Feste (and sung by him in every clip at Olivia’s estate), the song still continues at Orsino’s court. The difference between the two courts are the instrumentation, with one being accordion and the other piano respectively. Yet both of these instruments play well to the emotions presented by the lyrics and what we’ve seen of the characters emotions. For the main three at this time, being Viola, Olivia and Orsino, the song helps solidify their emotions towards each other. Yet the song also provides a chance to expand on the secondary characters and the B plot, particularly highlighting the as of-yet unknown feelings between Sir Toby and Maria. This is particularly highlighted in the last quatre (around the three minute mark), when Maria joins Feste in singing. I generally found that it was this scene that the rest of the movie was based on, solely for how it feels and how it interacts with the characters, helping to highlight the awkward love triangle, but doing nothing to solve it.

This situation is wonderfully shown through the entire movie. Every scene is created to either showcase the awkward love affair between the members of both courts, or to taunt and tease the viewers through dramatic irony. In making use of what is particularly helpful through film, there are a few key moments where what would normally be said aloud was put into voice over.

Take the scene about. While the poster cut out a few shots in certain areas, the clip still serves to highlight what is important about the dialogue. In two different instances, the dialogue is cut out from the normal and is linked to enhance a meaning through montage. The first is around the thirty second mark, where Olivia is shown to be elated and happy for the first time in months through the use of voice over, allowing her to show facial expressions where otherwise dialogue would have been needed. Around the one minute mark, the same thing happens, only this time Viola is the speaker, and the text highlights her empathy towards loving someone who cannot reciprocate the feelings, cutting to Olivia sleeping. This happens a few more times in the film, and it’s a strength that the film has over a traditional theatre approach. And it is this feeling that the whole movie hinges on.

Take this scene, where Orsino and Viola are listening to Feste. In a normal situation this wouldn’t be an issue, but because of the secrets being kept, the scene it is suspenseful for the viewers. It is made even worse through good use of camera work, started with a medium shot and slowly working to a close up by the end. This slowly increases the intimacy of the scene for the viewers, suggestion the same feelings to us as are being portrayed on screen by Viola. This is juxtaposed by the cuts to Feste and his look of almost confusion by the goings on.

This version of Twelfth Night is a highly entertaining use of ones times. Every decision made is made with the express intent on making the gender dynamics of the movie more defined and the to highlight the absurdity of it all. While there is a B plot in what goes on with Malvolio, Sir Toby and Maria, even that helps to highlight the intensity of loving those who you must. Ever small detail in accounted for, with a large portion of the film providing foreshadowing and dramatic irony to the viewers. It is a cleverly done film well worth the watch.

Mirabelle Harris-Eze: Scene Comparison | Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Branagh’s Hamlet (1996)

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Kenneth Branagh

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Kenneth Branagh









Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably one of the most famous plays in English literature. This blog post will compare and contrast Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996)—in particular the last half of Act III Scene I, encompassing Hamlet’s soliloquy up until Claudius exits with Polonius.

I know that I am not in the minority when I say that Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play. In this blog post, I look into how Zeffirelli and Branagh, two directors releasing their film adaptations during the same decade, with similar budgets, interpret Hamlet on screen—just how polarizing could their renditions be?

Script and Running Time

Zeffirelli’s Hamlet runs at 134 (2 hours and 14 minutes) minutes and Branagh’s Hamlet at, nearly double that, 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes). The disparity in running times are apparent in the conversion from Hamlet the text from Hamlet the screenplay.

Hamlet (1990) was cut to a length suitable for the cinema. Long blocks of text were cut down and lines swapped, thus quickening the pace of the plot. In contrast, Hamlet (1996) was the first unabridged theatrical interpretation of the text. I recall it took 4 sittings to watch it in high school English class, and we followed along with our textual copies of Hamlet. Branagh’s decision here renders the film more theatrical than cinematic, which lies in complete opposition to Ziffirelli’s decision to use a multitude of cinematic techniques, many action-film based. This observation is further developed when I talk about the shots both directors favored.

To Be or not To Be…

“To be, or not to be: that is the question”

(Hamlet 3.1.56)

The way the two directors interpret Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on screen was what I was most interested in during my comparative analysis.





Setting of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet

hamlet-branagh-1  hamlet-branagh-3


Setting of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet

Zeffirelli’s Hamlet employs short takes, the average shot length is 6 seconds, reminiscent of action films. Mel Gibson as Hamlet wanders an underground morgue, the camera steady and shots short. These vary from close ups to wide angle shots, techniques possible solely with cinematography, that emphasize the darkly-lit setting. In contrast, the majority of Branagh’s Hamlet employs long single takes, very often with some sort of moving camerawork. In the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet is filmed standing in front of a mirror, in a brightly-lit hall of mirrors, the camera zooming closer and closer as the speech goes on. This mimics more accurately the experience in a theatre with the long single take, but still uses cinematographic elements with the camera zoom, building tension.

Tension is built in Hamlet (1996) sonically speaking, too. As Branagh delivers his lines, soft, pedantic music crescendos as the soliloquy goes on. Hamlet (1990) is void of music during the speech but Mel Gibson’s voice is filled with heavy reverb—as the scene takes place in an airy, cellar-like place—vocals are more emphasized than musical score.

Hamlet and Ophelia and the Other Guys too

The interaction between Ophelia and Hamlet is approached both uniquely and similarly by Zeffirelli and Branagh.

hamlet-zifferelli-ophelia-side-side-talk hamlet-zifferelli-ophelia-side-side-talk-2


Hamlet and Opheila in Hamlet (1990)


Hamlet and Opheila in Hamlet (1996)

If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for

thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as

snow, thou shalt not escape calumny . . .

(Hamlet 3.1.35-37)

Hamlet’s line above is delivered loudly and angrily by Gibson, in an arc shot, in Hamlet (1990). In Hamlet (1996) the line is delivered just as loudly by Branagh, and perhaps a little more maniacally, in a tracking shot. Both shots capture the madness of Hamlet, whether genuine or feigned.

The duplicitous natures of Claudius and Polonius are captured similarly as well between the directors. In Hamlet (1990), Claudius and Polonius eavesdrop from behind pillars covered in shadows, while in Hamlet (1996), Claudius and Polonius eavesdrop from behind the mirrors in the hall.


Claudius and Polonius in Hamlet (1990)


Claudius and Polonius in Hamlet (1996)





Acclaimed directors Zeffirelli and Branagh, although releasing their renditions of Hamlet in the same decade, with similar budgets, produce quite unique works. While Zeffirelli’s rendition focuses on mainly cinematic elements, Branagh’s focuses more so on theatrical elements.



Adetola Adedipe: Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2) Scene Comparison


Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet (1968)

Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (1968)












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.


Luhrmann's 1996 Juliet

Luhrmann’s 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli's 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli’s 1996 Juliet







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.



Crowl, S. (2008). Shakespeare and film: A Norton guide. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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”


Caitlyn Molstad: Film Review

Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is a great example of the ways in which film techniques can accentuate and enhance Shakespeare’s plays. Luhrmann’s use of film language is successful in creating a more intensified version of Romeo and Juliet. There is a looming sense of a higher power and strong themes of fate and destiny at work in Shakespeare’s original text. Luhrmann translates these textual themes into strong visual motifs that heighten the intensity of the story.

In the opening sequence of Romeo + Juliet, a television report and newspaper headlines take the role of the chorus and describe the tragic nature of the story that is about to unfold in a modern context. This introduction frames the inevitable demise of the young lovers and introduces the violence of the feud between their two houses. The film is successful in vividly showing the viewer what Shakespeare’s chorus could only tell in words. Instead of using their imaginations, viewers are thrusted into an aggressive visual montage of flash cuts and zooms, dramatic opera music, and turbulent camera work depicting the Montague and Capulet’s violent crimes against each other. 

One of the first images in the opening montage is the statue of the Christ figure that stands in the centre of the city. Throughout the film, this symbol works to represent the themes of fate and determinism in the story. The opening sequence cuts to a close-up of the statue’s face, then slam zooms out to a long shot of the city of Verona, where the statue is flanked by two skyscrapers that say “Capulet” and “Montague” respectively. This shot establishes the two houses as well as a sense of higher power because of the presence of the religious statue between them. The juxtaposition of violence and symbols of fate with the urgent nature of news headlines, coupled with a dramatic film score, gives the prelude to Shakespeare’s play far more intensity than can be achieved on-stage. The opening montage also makes use of flash-forward cuts that show powerful moments from the story, which situates the viewer within the inevitable drama and tragedy that is about to unfold. Luhrmann also uses flash-forward cuts as well as flash-backs throughout the film to add visual potency and to further drive home the theme of fatefulness.

Another scene which demonstrates the effectiveness of film language in Shakespeare is the scene on Verona Beach where Mercutio meets his death at the hand of Tybalt. The scene starts off with Mercutio teasing Tybalt but it quickly becomes heated between the two and the camera work is chaotic, almost becoming a character amidst the scuffle of the confrontation. The group of men circle around the camera in heated dialogue and the film score becomes more intense.The confrontation moves to what appears to be a run-down theatre stage on the beach, paying homage to Shakespeare and adding metatheatrical element to the scene.

The scene comes to a climax and Mercutio is fatally wounded, at which point the wind on the beach picks up and there is a thunderstorm, accentuating the emotion and seriousness of Mercutio’s death. The storm coming in during this scene also foreshadows to the tragedy to follow, as Romeo is about to murder Tybalt, his new wife’s cousin, in a rage of revenge. This visual device works to represent once again the active role of fate in the character’s lives.

The following scene, where Romeo and Tybalt fight each other in a passionate fit of rage, uses the mise-en-scene of the stormy, rainy weather to emphasize the tragic and emotional nature of the scene. The fast-paced action of the car chase is exciting and accentuates the characters rage as Luhrmann cuts back and forth between close-ups of the two rivals. The music is dizzying as Romeo shoots Tybalt dead into the fountain. The thunder rumbles again and the rain starts to pour as he realizes the severity of what he’s done and exclaims “I am fortune’s fool!” (3.1.98). The symbolism in the overhead shot of the Christ statue towering over Romeo and Tybalt as well as the score and mise-en-scene of the bad weather work to emphasize Romeo’s emotion and the theme of fate in the story. The film language and symbolism used by Baz Luhrmann throughout the film is consistent and successful in creating a more intense, emotional and potent rendition of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.


Anthony Hawboldt: Film Review

Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V is good Shakespeare, while still being good film. Branagh makes an effortless transition of the play into the screen, and his expertise with the play truly shows on screen, a true accomplishment, especially for a first time director like Branagh. Branagh’s cinematography is simple and to the point. He keeps his focus as close to the actor’s as possible, drawing on their skills to keep the audience’s focus. His shots stay close as possible, zoomed out just enough to show as much of the setting as possible for the audience to understand the context. Just as the director draws on the portrayals of the characters to carry the film, certain characters are also the downfall of the movie.

The film’s unique twist on the character of The Chorus is perhaps the most brilliant tool in Branagh’s arsenal. The character is a bit of an oddity, addressing the audience directly to reinforce their attention. In a limited stage setting like in Shakespeare’s time, this would be a valuable tool, but for the age of cinema, it’s mostly obsolete. On film, you can tell the audience where the scene is taking place by simply throwing up text telling the current location. Instead, The Chorus shows up throughout the film, addressing the audience just like the original play, but in the same space as the film. He doesn’t exist as a disembodied voice, or narrator telling the audience from a separate space, but rather travels with the plot, yet remaining magically unseen by the other characters. This version of the Chorus takes upon the role of a guide for the audience, easily enthralled by Derek Jacobi’s commanding voice. Not only does this provide the audience with the same exposition as a theatre audience, but it also enables the film to remain closer to the original text.

The character of Falstaff is enhanced on screen as well. In the text of the play, he is only mentioned and not shown, since they mention that the character has passed away. Branagh chooses instead to show Falstaff, by having Nym, Pistol and Bardolph remember him through flashback. While no such scene exists in the play, Branagh takes these scenes from Henry IV, which helps to blend the scene into the film. To any viewer not familiar with the original play, it’s almost impossible to tell that the scene was added in. This further helps the viewer to understand the relationship between Nym/Pistol/Bardolph and Henry. This helps to carry the severity of Henry’s decision to hang Bardolph for theft. Without establishing this relationship, Bardolph’s execution simply seems like a way to tie up the side plot of the three, but Branagh’s decision helps to give this scene the importance it deserves.

Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff

Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff

Branagh’s adaptation is not without weakness, however. The viewer’s introduction to Katherine takes the brunt of this criticism. Even within the play, this scene feels unnecessary. While it may serve as an introduction to the character of Katherine, we don’t really discover anything about her that seems to be important. She struggles with English in the scene, but we could easily figure this out in the final scene in which her and King Henry meet. Her handmaiden speaks in a cartoonishly high pitched voice and it ruins the believability of the scene. While it would be more or less “proper’ to include the scene out of respect to the original material, Branagh’s usage of content from Henry IV shows that he’s willing to break this rule, so there’s really no excuse to include this scene.

Kenneth Branagh as Henry

Kenneth Branagh as Henry

While the above mentioned scene with Katherine is weak, Emma Thompson’s portrayal is commendable, and the entire film is not completely ruined by the inclusion of the scene. The strength the rest of the cast more than picks up the slack, making Henry V the standard for stage-to-screen adaptations.