Ashley Staples: Scene Comparison

                            0f75d912d6377cde5db61cfd2886b59cRomeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli 1968

Act 3 scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet culminates in the death of Tybalt by Romeo’s hands, as they duel over the fate of Mercutio. Romeo, seeking vengeance for his friend, lets his emotions overcome him, furthering the gap between himself and his love, Juliet. The scene dramatically ends with Romeo’s bitter line, “I am fortune’s fool” (3.1.98). Both Zeffirelli’s and Luhrmann’s film versions of Romeo and Juliet use this statement in differing ways. Not only are the deliveries completely unalike, but, also, the contexts lend further insight into the directors’ separate styles and artistic visions.

In Baz Luhrmann’s version, a car crash and a battle over the weapon, a single hand gun, supply the most tension within the action sequence. Luhrmann uses shaky camera work, slow motion and extreme facial close ups during the car accident to heighten the drama and pivot the scene to the character’s confrontation. Choral and electronic music used in tandem intensifies each moment. Both the music and the camera alternately slow and speed up, and the overall effect is one of disorientation and urgency.

At one point, Romeo is held at gunpoint by Tybalt. A terse, vehement exchange follows and, with crazed passion, Romeo repeats the line, “Either thou or I, or both, must go with him” (3.1.91). With each repetition, Romeo seems to become more incensed, and with the final repeat, Romeo yells the line like a war cry. The emphasis on these repeated lines is almost prophetic; Romeo seems to believe he is helpless at the hands of fate, and the only path ahead of him is death. When Romeo shoots Tybalt, the facial closeups mimic both points of view — staring down the barrel of the gun, and watching the life leave Tybalt’s eyes. It is interesting to note that this effect is used instead of a wide shot, where the action would have been seen more clearly. Tybalt’s body falls backwards, viewed from above, which is consistent with the lofty and spiritual themes of the scene. Realization dawns on Romeo as the camera cuts back to his face, pans down his arm, and he drops the gun. The music is gone, and the only sounds are from the storm around him. Romeo screams “I am fortune’s fool” (3.1.98) to heavens above with the camera panning upwards. The scene ends with the camera looking down on Romeo once more, again mimicking a point of view; seemingly of a higher being in control of Romeo’s fate.

Zeffirelli’s version of Act 3 scene 1 is much different. It’s brawling, gritty and visceral. The fight quickly escalates from a passionate duel to an animalistic struggle in the dirt of the street. In this version, Romeo is a more human character embroiled with rage, instead of a crazed prophet driven mad by vengeful justice and destiny. There is no music — only the constant yelling of the two boys’s comrades as they race down the alleyways. The whole group is very mobbish, both fighting each other and watching the real fight simultaneously, each egging on their respective leaders in the duel. The youthfulness of all the characters is emphasized in this version. Each contributing element reflects the innocence and energy of youth, as well as its crude, primal aggression.

Tybalt’s dead body falls forwards onto Romeo, instead of backwards and away from him. This physical connection in death is more human, and thus the fault of the situation lies in the hands of human error more than the whims of fate. The scene again ends with the line, “I am fortune’s fool,” (3.1.98) except here, Romeo cries it out in bitter regret and sorrow.

Both versions of this scene show different sides of chaos, passion and rage. Luhrmann’s Romeo is more focused on the act of killing, speaking of it as if an absolute and unquestionable force was directing him. He seems half-mad; the chaos of the scene is reminiscent of disorientation and helplessness. In the end, Romeo seems to put the blame of the murder in the hands of fate, not himself. Zeffirelli’s version, by contrast, is animalistic and primal. The fight is a brawl that is rife with rage and the intent to kill. It is never verbalized. The murder is a result of human passion rather than an act of fate. Romeo seems to regret his actions and puts the fault on himself. In all, both versions effectively represent the inherent deep emotion of the scene.

Ashley Staples: Notes Reflection

The way I take notes differs depending on what kind of media I am viewing. Text versus film changes my style of perception drastically, and therefore what and how I annotate will vary depending on my experience. For example, film is a visual medium, so a lot of the notes I take while analyzing a film will be about the visual choices a director makes. This can range from cinematography to colour palette, set design to acting style. Generally, I find that I may have to watch a film or particular scene several times in order to glean from it all the information that I can.

Film has many layers to its production, so being able to acknowledge them all while watching is usually difficult for me. It is easy to become distracted or immersed, and forget to write down what I am thinking. When I take notes on films, I try to write down the most obvious pieces of information first, such as important lines of dialogue, camera cuts, scene layout and mood. If an actor is being given a lot of attention by the camera, that is an indicator for me of something I should be watching carefully. I try to mix my factual observations with personal insight or ideas, so that I understand why I thought a certain piece of information was important later. After I take note of the more obvious ideas, I am free to analyze the film more closely. This is generally a better approach if I am able to watch the scene or film multiple times. If this is not the case, my note taking style is a bit more frenetic and contains a mixture of things — mostly whatever jumps out at me first. I admit if I can only watch something once, I am usually disorganized and not sure where to start. When this happens, the effectiveness of my notes tends to vary based on how much attention I pay to the film. Sometimes, most of my notes follow only one way of looking at the film, such as cinematography, so I don’t become overwhelmed.

Reading a play-text is a different matter altogether. Here, I am able to analyze more freely because I can physically write in the margins of the text what I am thinking. I can also use arrows to connect ideas together, and circle or underline certain words and phrases. Personally, this approach is easier, because it seems to me that is more concrete. I can read through the text as many times as I need to, and the layout is more accessible for making connections, since all the information is clearly written out in front of me along with my notes. I can take a long time to annotate a text. The idea flow comes more naturally to me with this medium, so though I write directly into the margins, I usually need to make more notes in a separate notebook. I connect what I write in the notebook to my margin work with circled numbers, so I can easily match up my thought process upon a second viewing.

I think that my note taking process for written work is more effective, because I can consistently get more information and ideas than I can with film. However, it comes at a cost, because my ideas are not usually organized clearly into categories. This is easier to do when I am watching a film, especially with multiple viewings. From there I can connect the layers together in an orderly fashion. With play-texts, all my ideas tend to be highly interconnected, and I have to do the opposite process — detangle them and place them into comprehensible sections. This is a long drawn out process, especially when I need to use my notes for further writing.

I am not certain, however, if this is a problem with my note-taking style, or my experience with film versus written text. Because I have less experience with film, my film notes may be less comprehensive than my notes on written work. So, though I may believe that the amount of notes I take with film is due to the media itself, it may actually just be a case of relative ignorance. In all, I believe I have a sturdy grasp on how to take notes with play-texts, but my ability to takes notes on film could stand to be reworked with further exposure to film analysis.

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.

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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.

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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.