Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet

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Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet

Sex, drugs, and violence are usually a potent combination, and only William Shakespeare could develop them into a masterful, poetic, and elegant story. In the play, "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet," all these aspects of teenage life absorb the reader or watcher. It is understood that Hollywood would try to imitate this masterpiece on screen, and it has done so in two films: Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 "Romeo and Juliet" and Baz Luhrmann's 1996 "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet." The updated Luhrmann picture best captures the essence of Shakespeare for the present-day viewer. Through the ingenious use of modernization and location, while preserving Shakespearean language, the spirit of Shakespeare emerges to captivate a large audience.

Shakespeare's plays were designed to adapt to any audience: with this in mind, Baz Luhrmann created a film that applies to the modern audience through this updating. Luhrmann modernizes "Romeo and Juliet," through constant alterations of the props, which entice the audience into genuinely feeling the spirit of Shakespeare. First, the movie starts with an prologue masked as a news broadcast on television. This sets the scene of the play by illustrating the violence occurring between the two wealthy families, the Montagues and the Capulets. In Zeffirelli's film of "Romeo and Juliet," the prologue takes the form of a dry narrator relating the story of the Montagues and Capulets over a backdrop of an Italian city. For most modern viewers (especially teenagers), the Luhrmann picture is fast-paced, keeping the spectator intrigued, while the Zeffirelli picture is dreary and dull, an endless maze of long and boring conversations, foreshadowed by the prologue. In Luhrmann's film, the actors, instead of carrying swords with them, hide guns in their shirts and wield them expertly. The death of Romeo and Juliet is (as always) blamed on the post office, for not...
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