Romeo and Juliet Film Review
Many iconic creations of literature have been turned into modern, motion films. Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet is a play that has fallen victim to creators’ hands. Having been recreated a different number of times there is going to be many representations. Directors like Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli, both from different decades, have very different ideas of how Shakespeare’s words were perceived. Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet is more successful than Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet in representing what Shakespeare wanted to have due to the fact of the emotional aspect Luhrmann introduces and Zeffirelli’s more joking portrayal of the scene.
For a movie to be successful in depicting Shakespeare’s magnificent ideology there has to be four main points it has to hit. Act three is the whole climax act where Lady Fortune turns her wheel to the downfall. But it’s so much more, and Luhrmann was the one to capture that. Starting out with the joking around with Benvolio and Mercutio we see Shakespeare showing some foreshadowing of what’s going to happen throughout the scene. “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (III.i.4) can be translated to the exact mood of the play. Outside of the life of Romeo and Juliet hatred fills the air as the family’s feud continues. Even the peacemaker of the play, Benvolio, has a head full “of quarrels as an egg is / full of meat” (III. i. 21-22). That means the first element a movie has to depict is the very mood of hidden hatred behind everyones eyes. Continuing on, advancing a little bit to when Mercutio is dying he says the phrase “A plague a’ both houses!” (III.i.89). This phrase is very meaningful because he repeats it again during his death speak.
How it works
Shakespeare most likely wanted that phrase to stand out to make Mercutio look like an bystander pulled into a fight because of the feud. Shakespeare then carries forward on this emotional rollercoaster with the death of Mercutio. While it brings tears to Romeo’s eyes it brings hatred to his heart too. “Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And fire-ey’d fury be my conduct now!” (III.i.122-123) is the exact moment when all peace is thrown out and the built up hatred Romeo has comes out. Finally after Romeo kills Tybalt he yells very iconic words “O, I am fortune’s fool!” (III.i.133). This exact moment is the downfall of love, when the fire is at its highest and hottest point. Shakespeare intends this point to be where love dies, and where regret swoops in to take Romeo away. The four requirements for making an accurate Romeo and Juliet are all there and Luhrmann did it better.
Romeo + Juliet is a better version of Romeo And Juliet because it better meets the requirements for making a good representation of Shakespeare’s play. Starting off with number one, the mood. Luhrmann sets the mood Shakespeare was trying to catch through the weather. When it gets to the darkest of parts a storm starts. A dark sky with some rough winds shows how things are going to be harsh. Next, Luhrmann uses Mercutio to express lots of emotion, which in Shakespeare’s plays is what’s supposed to happen. Yelling time after time “A plague a’ both houses!” shows the emotion for the hatred of the feud Mercutio has. It’s so pure yet so hate filled and that is what Shakespeare wanted from the jokester Mercutio. Progressing onto the third requirement, Romeo’s hatred for Tybalt after he kills Mercutio. Luhrmann’s choice adds dramatic effect to the whole scene. He brings a Juliet scene talking about her love for Romeo up to intersect between the crying of Romeo to him screaming.
Full force screamin, driving a car at high speed. Luhrmann uses special effects and such to get the scene to show the anger and hatred take over just as Shakespeare had wanted. Finally after everything is said and done Romeo takes the essential line, looks up to the sky and screams “I am fortune’s fool!” as thunder cracks in the background. If Shakespeare could, he would have definitely done that in his plays. It adds the dramatic effect he tries to achieve while also focusing on the regret. Luhrmann’s version just better demonstrates what Shakespeare was trying to get out of Act III than Zeffirelli.
While Zeffirelli’s version isn’t bad, it has some downsides which make rank it under the 1996 version. First off, he doesn’t set the mood. Instead of having it be dark and stormy it’s more of a playful mood. Especially because at the beginning Mercutio is in a fountain. Also while fighting Mercutio is joking around with Tybalt instead of having any anger until Tybalt gets triggered from an insult. Next, Mercutio sounds like he’s joking around in his death speech and while it is very good at representing what Shakespeare was trying to say it just doesn’t get to the point enough. When Mercutio dies Romeo seems more blank than sad or angry. He has some anger but his anger isn’t full force rage taking over; it’s more like he’s choosing to be angry. Finally, Romeo doesn’t seem like he regrets killing Tybalt. He’s more confused and just again, blank. Zeffirelli just does not add enough emotion which Shakespeare was trying to get out of all of it and that is why his film was not as good as Romeo + Juliet.
All in all Luhrmann’s film better illustrates Shakespeare’s than Zeffirelli’s. Adding emotion and setting a better mood he achieves the effect Shakespeare was trying to give. While these two movies are heavily compared they are both magnificent works of art and should not be judged over just one little scene. That’s why the original is always the best, Shakespeare’s!