Romeo and Juliet - 1968 and 1996 Movie Comparison

Topics: Romeo and Juliet, Romeo + Juliet, Romeo Montague Pages: 5 (1907 words) Published: June 28, 2008
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a cherished piece of literature that has been remade into movies many times throughout history. The 1968 version and the controversial 1996 version give different perspectives of Shakespeare's famous play. While the 1968 classical version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet should be appreciated, the modern version portrays the complexity of love in a fast-paced society by using narrative and stylistic elements combined with energetic editing in an advanced, creative way.

Primarily, casting decisions had a huge impact on character portrayal and the success of the movie. Romeo was played by a "pretty boy" in both movies to depict sensitivity and youthful attractiveness. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonard Whiting depicted emotions well, but DiCaprio seemed less refined or proper in his movements to put a modern spin on the character. Also, Leonardo DiCaprio's fame aided in the movie's success while Whiting was unheard of in the world of acting. The role of Juliet as played by Olivia Hussey was delicate and graceful. She appeared flawlessly beautiful and fit the classical role perfectly, although her frantic crying fits were played somewhat out of proportion. Claire Danes played the part very well, and was more appropriate for the modern version, her fame aiding in the film's appeal as well. Mercutio was an interesting character in both films, but Harold Perrineau Jr. brought the character's dialogue and actions into today's world. Crazy and loud are some essential ingredients included when most people think about comedy today, and Perrineau depicted these traits to the extreme. His skin color caused the issue of race to be brought up in the movie. It enlightened people into a more modern and open state of mind because black actors were not included in the cast of medieval time films. However, John McEnery's performance in the 1968 version was appropriate for the movie and time setting. He acted like a jester would in the fourteenth or fifteenth Centuries. The Nurse's ethnicity also played a role in the characterization of the modern film. Her Spanish accent caused names to sound like "Romayo" and "Hooliet." Modern society is used to racial and ethnic diversity, but this was rarely dealt with in the gothic ages.

Moreover, the plot also contained differences between the two versions. The time period was an obvious variation. While the 1968 version placed the story in the medieval times, the 1996 version placed the story in modern times with police control taking over the city as compared to the Prince's men. Television reporters took the place of narrators and corruption was apparent (prostitution, drugs). In addition, the setting was dramatically different. While Verona was the original setting, the modern version changed the setting to Verona Beach to give the audience a feel for the modern, busy, and problem-filled city. Scenes were set on the beach or in a pool hall or at a mansion as compared to cobblestone buildings or castles of the medieval centuries. These modern settings caused stylistic changes in overall costume design and use of props. For example, the Capulets wore tight black clothing with slicked hair while the Montagues opted for casual Hawaiian shirts. The 1968 version played along with the stereotypical classic costume of tunics and tights to aid in the classical feel of the movie. Also, instead of swords, the modern characters skillfully used guns, which they referred to as "swords", and replaced horses with cars. These props were creatively included whenever possible to cause suspense and action.

The scene in which Romeo and Juliet first meet contained many differing stylistic elements. Visual Effects, sound effects, editing, and music contributed to making the modern version more advanced and creative than the 1968 version of the scene. The modern party scene is set in the over-decorated, glitzy, up-scale Capulet mansion. The festive atmosphere...
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