Marisol Calzada: Notes Reflection

Note taking for me has always been fairly difficult. In grade school I always struggled with finding a note taking style that worked for me; I remember using a different style of note taking every month along with different pens, highlighters, tabs, etc. Nothing seemed to work until I got into university. University courses made me realize that not only am I a visual learner, but I learn and remember best through repetition.

For me note taking had been very traditional, using a notebook and a pen; recently I started taking notes on my iPad Pro and it’s been working so well for me because I can split the screen between my note taking app and other resources I’m using. In this class I have found that my note taking has changed throughout the semester. At first I would write down everything that was on the powerpoint slides shown in class, and as the course progressed I learned how to decipher the notes and jot down the most important points presented.

Annotating on an iPad

Taking notes while reading a Shakespeare play-text is a little more challenging for me. I can’t read the text like I normally would a book and that frustrates me. I have to break the text down into sections – usually by the characters dialogue. After I break the text down, I read it “normally” the first time and then again a second time trying to understand the overall meaning of the passage. After I grasped the vague understanding of the passage, I like to paraphrase in regular English. Then I go line by line highlighting-underlining anything I believe is important to the passage. I start by mapping out the rhythm of the lines, and then I start circling ”hidden” things like alliterations, assonances, repetitions, etc. or other writing techniques Shakespeare has used. This type of reading takes me a long time because I feel like Shakespeare’s writing has a lot of hidden elements that require more than just imagination and literacy. By the time I am done with the passage, there are circles, lines, arrows, and writing all over it. For some it may seem like there is an excess of writing on it, but like I previously mentioned, I’m a visual learner and all the writing helps me keep my ideas and thoughts organized.

Taking notes on a film is a very different experience for me. Like most people, when I watch a movie I want to enjoy it rather than take notes on it; but on the occasion that I have to write annotations I start by reading a synopsis of the movie so I know what the general plot is about. When it comes to Shakespeare storylines in films, I like to understand how the characters are connected to each other; this helps to understand the plot. I tend to pay too much attention to the film and forget to write notes, so I make “mental notes” about scenes that I believe are important. The music in the movie helps me determine which scenes are more important than others because music guides our emotions. After I watch the movie and I have a good understanding of the plot, I can go back and find a specific scene and pause/rewind it if I need to analyze it a bit more.

If I ever need to compare a play-text and a film of the play, I always start by annotating the play-text first and then I will watch the movie. By annotating the play-text first, I am able to dissect the meaning of the texts while imagining the story line in my head. I believe that’s what helps me decipher the differences the director makes in the film because I have already created “a film” of my own in my head and if it doesn’t match up then the differences stick out to me.

I know my annotations have been successful if I can paraphrase the play-text/film to another person, or if I can have an in-depth discussion about the play-text/film. I believe more times out of none, my play-text annotations are more successful because I have the ability to reread and “marinate” my brain in the words that are right in front of me, which give me the liberty to go at my own pace. Film annotations are more difficult because the pace of the story-line is much faster and frequently pausing the film can take away from the experience the director intended his audience to have.

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—
1996 Romeo and Juliet viewed on

Luhrmann 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Web.
Shakespeare Text

Notes Reflection (Text vs. Film)

If you’re like me and haven’t annotated your reading before, starting this habit can be very hard. I mean, weren’t you taught as a child to not write in your books. At most, you followed your line of reading with your finger but the book should look as undamaged as possible by the time you were done. (Libraries will charge you for damage you know!) Annotating can open up a text and make your mind work very differently when interpreting a reading.

The only books I thought you could draw in!

The only books I thought you could draw in!

So how much of the text and syntax and depth do you miss when you are merely “reading” it? Did you notice how many words in that sentence started with the letter c? Did you notice that a word was repeated 6 times in that one paragraph? Maybe it’s my love of stationary (I am Asian and little OCD) but my annotating practices have started with a few coloured pens. This allow me to isolate specifics in different colours. My annotating also requires me to reread the text. Usually if it’s worth annotating, I need to reread it to understand it. Unknown words now get an underline and definition in the margin. (Thank you google search.) Alliterations get circled and repetitions get underlined. I’m also still not sure why but unless the text is written out like a limerick, I will always miss rhyming on the first go. Reading out loud is beneficial to catch the enunciations and flow in the prose. These practices can be hard to get used to, but when you can explain what Shakespeare meant to someone who has never heard English spoken that way before, then I think you have nailed it.

King Henry V, Act 4, Chorus Intro, all marked up!

King Henry V, Act 4, Chorus Intro, all marked up!

In contrast film annotating is a very different process. I have never watched a movie with the screenplay in front of me. (Where do you even get a screenplay?) I may have access to the original material (book or play) that it was based on but never have I followed along in a book and rarely with a play. (Only for Shakespeare, and even then…rarely) It can be quite hard to follow when the dialogue isn’t word for word as it is in the original play.

My first film annotating experience was watching Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet at seven years old with my dad. He kept pausing the movie and reviewing the lines in his massive Shakespeare anthology to make sure I understood. But pausing a movie can change the way the movie feels and flows. A directors pacing and editing wasn’t intended to have extra breaks. But without breaks, trying to take notes while watching a film can be extremely distracting. How quickly a detail could be missed if you look away from the screen even for a minute.

YouTube and IMDb. So helpful!

YouTube and IMDb. So helpful!

Much like the rereading required with annotating text, sometimes it is necessary to re-watch (at least a few scenes of) a movie. After you have watched it once, it is easy to make notes and distinguish the characteristics that make the film unique (or not).

Looking for camera angles, analyzing acting performances, quoting the script, listening to the score and appreciating the editing becomes evident as you not merely trying to pay attention to what is happening in the story. Even then, when I’m trying to dissect each film element out of a scene, I will most likely watch it 5 or 6 times through and type notes for each aspect.

Crowl's guide outlines the elements of a film in his Keys to Filmmaking.

Crowl’s guide outlines the elements of a film in his Keys to Filmmaking.

Also after watching a movie, nerds like me tend to wander over to IMDb to review the actors, directors, screenwriters and trivia. Sometimes you forget that the actor was in that other movie you liked and now you realize how similar they were.  Or that the director also made another movie based on a previous work of said author. Or that the screenwriter seems to have a thing for dramatic thrillers. Directors will very often collaborate with the same cinematographers and composers and the styles will bleed through each of their works.

While this is still a “work in progress” for me, it is interesting to review the things that you note as you read through a passage for the first time or the fourth time. As someone who has read the Harry Potter series more times than I have fingers, it’s evident that with every re-reading I pick up something new. Annotating allows you to slow down and take note of the things that the author carefully considered when creating their text. Meanwhile, most films probably don’t deserve a second watch, but the ones who do will be immediately evident. You can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it and on re-watching you wonder how you somehow missed so much the first time around.