Romeo and Juliet Movie Comparison

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In Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, is a traditional adaptation of Shakespeare’s original Romeo and Juliet, with some variations. Baz Luhrmann directed the 1996 version, also known as the MTV Romeo † Juliet. This version is very modernized, but keeps the language intact with few changes. There are many differences between Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and the Signet version of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo’s entire speech that begins “Alas that love, whose view is muffled still, Should without eyes see pathways to his will!” (at act 1 scene 1 line 174) is deleted. With the deletion of these lines, the audience, is not privy to his longing for Rosaline. Even though Friar Lawrence mentions Rosaline later in the movie, we are not shown Romeo as a boy whose heart is easily captured, but rather, ready to be caught. In Luhrmann’s version of Romeo † Juliet, this scene, even though cut in some ways, is shown with Romeo writing in his diary. He talks of his love, but he does not seem like he’s in love, but rather a repressed adolescent or a typical teen. Romeo doesn’t confide later to Benvolio as in the Signet version. In the MTV version of Romeo † Juliet, the Nurse’s role is cut considerably. Her speech about “weaning” Juliet, and Juliet falling with her first steps, and the reference to the earthquake are deleted. This is a major change because it completely changes the dynamics of the relationship between the Nurse and Juliet. We do not get the same sense of closeness between the two as we do in the Zeffirelli film. We also do not see the scene where the Nurse tells about Romeo’s banishment and Tybalt’s death. The reason for this is because of the speed of the film. Luhrmann keeps the pace of this film at very high speeds, and when you look back at the text, the Nurse’s role slows the pace considerably. She’s older, she’s slower, and she’s trying to extend her importance to Juliet and Romeo, but in the MTV Version, her role is cut drastically, which only contributes to Juliet’s isolation. In both movies, the presence of Paris at Juliet’s grave is discluded. This is probably for the better. While reading the play, it seemed like overkill, like just one more obstacle to prevent Romeo from getting to Juliet. Even though the audience know the outcome, they are still anxious to see Romeo get to her. Plus it helped keep the movies within two hours, give or take some. We also do not get the lamentation speeches from Juliet’s family after her fake death. Both films go straight to the funeral. The film allows directors to keep the audience from investing too much grief for the family by swiftly showing the funeral. The lamentation speeches of Shakespeare’s plays were needed, because they did not have the same visual choice that the filmmakers of today have. Romeo, being one of the protagonists of Romeo and Juliet, is played very differently between Leonardo De Caprio and Leonard Whiting. While Leonard Whiting plays the typical adolescent to a tee, Leonardo De Caprio has much more depth and expresses his anguish in much more dramatic ways.  For example, when Romeo being played by De Caprio is challenged by Tybalt he knows the consequence of his fighting and tries with all his might to prevent fighting with Tybalt, even though Tybalt is kicking his butt. We get the impression that he is truly trying to befriend him and make him understand that fighting should be left aside and that there will be great regrets. In Zeffirelli's version, Leonard Whiting plays a younger spirited Romeo. When Whiting is challenged by Tybalt, he is playful and does try to prevent a fight, but it is more with playful words and not because he knows the consequence of the fight or duel. We also get the feeling that De Caprio is much more mature than Whiting. While Whiting plays a lovesick kid from an upper class family, he still appears to be naïve and does not grow to the depths that De Caprio does. From the very beginning, De Caprio is seen as a...
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