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.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbroll_hamlet-part4_shortfilms (9:45)

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbrpau_hamlet-part5_shortfilms (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.

(Gibson)

(Tennant)

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.

Act 2, Scene 2; Romeo & Juliet 1968 and 1996

     Romeo and Juliet is truly a classic play written by Shakespeare. That is part of the reason I chose to compare the act 2, scene 2 in the films that were made by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 and also the newer version of Romeo and Juliet made by Baz Luhrmann in 1996. The other part of the reason I chose to analyze it was because I have seen and read the play. The two scenes obviously have the exact same concept behind them, yet they were executed in two extremely different ways. There are certain styles and details, beyond the very contrasting setting that the two directors chose that set the directors and scenes apart. Zeffirelli uses elaborate and over the top acting in order to portray the scene in a heart wrenching love story type of way. While Luhrmann uses a modern-day touch of comedy and a very eerie water setting to enhance the sense of urgency that is in the air while the two lovebirds meet. Both directors execute act 2 scene 2 fairly well, however Luhrmann transports the classic play to a familiar setting in order to have it relate to a modern-day audience, thus in my opinion he did it right.
    

     The settings of each individual film were very specific. Each setting was pivotal in the rest of the directing decisions. Luhrmann could not have made his film theatrical in the same way that Zeffirelli executed his film with elaborate acting and classical landscapes. This is possibly why Luhrmann chose to have it in a modern-day setting. The Verona beach setting enable the classical play to take on a modern-day touch that would easily relate to people in the 1960’s and also today. During the first part of this scene Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Romeo is seen fumbling over patio furniture and causing a ruckus while attempting to utter his “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,”(2.2.2-3) line this is only possible because of the choice to have props that tie in with his desired setting of the film. Zeffirelli chose the classical setting that was used to speak to the original context of the play. By having the feuding families and love bird set in the 1300’s the castles and balls and elaborate theater type acting all fits together. When Leonard Whiting is saying the exact same “but soft!” line he is sneaking through the bushes, this creates an entirely different feel for the viewer. The viewer is given a quaint teenage feel that is wrapped in a ‘medieval cloak’.

     Juliet plays a crucial role in this particular scene. Her acting either makes or break the scene. In the movie directed by Zeffirelli, Olivia Hussey who plays Juliet over does the acting. She is so elaborate, awkward and over directed. Her actions are unnatural, she takes unnecessarily long pauses and she looks as if she is forcing her love for Romeo. Hussey’s “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name,”(2.2.33-34) illustrates exactly how there is no girl on this planet who would ever use facial expressions to that extent while talking to herself alone on her balcony no mater how in love she is.

In the movie directed by Luhrmann, although it is more modern, the acting by
Claire Danes is relaxed and natural. She is able to portray her love for Romeo simply by whispering the exact same “O Romeo” line and all the while keeping her body language calm.

The acting plays an enormous role in the film and the acting by Claire Danes was simply superior.

     Both of the directors generate emotions from their respective takes on this particular scene. Luhrmann’s seamlessly humorous pool scene ties in the Verona beach star-crossed lovers idea perfectly, while on the other hand, Zeffirelli’s 1300’s overprocessed backyard teenage love scene over plays the importance of the feelings and urgency, thus ruining it.
Reilly Kruger

Works Cited and Sources:

Zeffrelli Romeo and juliet 1968— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0qao2xINsE&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwWsAUpr9eM
1996 Romeo and Juliet viewed on www.moviesub.net/romeo-juliet-1996/2212.html

Luhrmann 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Web.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ickdnrr9esU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD5Kl0VvhOo
Shakespeare Text 
http://www.themodernshakespeare.com/home/romeoandjuliettranslation/act2scene2