As part of my essay, I am going to examine how the fight is staged in two versions of Romeo and Juliet by Zeffereili (1968) and Baz Lurhman (1997) considering the points-setting, the costumes, the soundtrack, the use of violence and the portrayal of Romeo with the impact on audience. TWO MOTIVES: Once we watch the two versions, we would never miss the complete contrast between them in staging the fight as both had two different aims to fulfil. Zefereiili presents Romeo and Juliet with its true Renaissance flavour as his aim is to depict the lovers and their plight.
He uses the Renaissance setting to its maximum effect paying careful attention to the period details. Whereas, Lurhman’s main concern is to highlight mindless violence, anger, corruption, lack of morals and values of the modern society of which we are the representatives! Lurhman has craftily changed the setting, the costumes and the music to fit in with his motives. SETTING: Zeffereili’s play is set in an enclosed, noisy market place within the castle walls in Verona.
As was typical, it was a busy place with hundreds of people gathering to talk, to shop in an open area . we can instantly relate the images, the greyish broody colours and costumes to the Shakespearean age which is made more explicite by the use of soothing classical type music. Luhrman’s film is action packed with strong images and a variety of loud modern music tracks. He uses the most volatile place-a petrol station as a setting on a mythical place called ‘Verona Beach’ (slightly like Miami Beach in USA. ) with all its modern implications.
What surprised me was -as the fight will take place between the Montagues and the Capulets both the directors have skilfully used the technique of public mass disruption for setting (as Shakespeare did) yet fully satisfying their motives. (Incorporating? ) COSTUMES: As if complementary to their settings, both the versions present two facets of characters’ attitudes, personalities largely reflected by their costumes. In Zeffereili’s play the civilians wear wonderful, gorgeous, extravagant costumes. The Capulets wear lighter, brighter, adventurous clothes including red, yellow and orange shades. The Montagues wear dark, sombre and dull clothes.
Lurhman has modernised his characters physically and emotionally through their costumes and actions. The Montagues are dressed in fashionable modern beachwares-Hawaiian, brightly patterned, unbuttoned shirts with black trousers and trainers. They are speeding down in their MON 005 car blasting loud punk music-,’the boys, the boys’, at its highest volume, laughing and screaming. This image implies their seemingly tough but truly harmless nature. To me they are light hearted, pretending to be ‘ big’. One of them has fluorescent pink coloured hair and another with ‘MONTAGUE’ shaven at back of his head is noticeable.
The Capulets are dressed in the clothes of honour. They wear vests, dark trousers and boots. The very entry of the Capulets in their CAP 005, reflect nothing but power and tension, especially Tybalt crushing the cigarette with his steel heel shoes implying that he is the type of person who enjoys fight-crushing down the Montagues. I think, their heavy jewellery, tattoos, and piercing and marked ‘guns’ portay them to be the MAFIAS with vicious motives together with their strong belief in religion reflected in Tybalt’s vest with crucifix icon on it.
THE MUSIC: The music in Zeffereilli’s film is calm, classical and old fashioned. He has effectively used mellow sounds of flutes, strings and drums. The silence and lively atmosphere of the marketplace is broken as the Montagues start brawl tripping the friar up. The mood becomes very tense and is skilfully intensified by the craftily use of silence and slow paced actions. The tension reaches at its peak when we see the whole market place ‘at war’-accompanied by the sounds of clashing swords and rumbling empty tins, breaking boxes and shouting people.
But we are able to take a breath of relief as we hear the clip clop of horses suggesting the entry of Power- the Prince. Here, we can instantly feel that the silence speaks aloud after a noisy brawl. On the other hand, classical romantic music is used to signify sad, disheartened Romeo in Rosaline’s love. The recorded chirping of birds makes the natural surrounding of the scene in the woods much more realistic and helps to disclose wallowing Romeo’s confused mind (as the chirping of birds are recorded -not real so is Romeo’s ‘love’ for Rosaline) successfully. (infatuation)
Bazz’s film is a success in using variety of modern music tracks adjusted perfectly according to the requirements of the scenes. The loud punk music is used to represent Montagues . It changes to cow boy music to represent evil-minded Capulets. We can hear crackling fire, revving car noises and then the helicopter sound which gets louder and louder which intensifies the feeling of uncertainty, fear in the minds of audience. But much more important is the use of familiar modern music tracks (in Lurhman) that magnetically attracts and arouses a deep quell in us to watch the film. THE USE OF VIOLENCE:
As is apparent, Zeffereili’s film doesn’t deal with violence in an eye catching way although it deals with fight scenes in the market place. Whereas, Lurhman successfully used the tv screen, the news reader combined with loud punk music, two high skyscrapers marked with Montagues and Capulets,along with loud helicopter sounds to give the audience the true idea that it is going to be an action film full with violence. As we watch along the same idea is highlighted by the loud revving car noises gun shots and crackling noise of fire when we see the whole petrol station is on fire symbolising the whole city on war.
We see a lady hitting the Montague with her purse which adds humour to the scene but this technique is used to highlight the violent fight scene. I think by uplifting violence in such a way ,Lurhman in fact reflects the true nature of the modern violent ,obsessive mind where fight,gunshots,death are a trigger away,keeping a gun is not illegal or immoral but they are a symbol of status ,symbol of power and dignity! It symbolically shows that the valour of swords have been snatched away by the guns. THE PRESENTATION OF ROMEO:
The romantic Romeo in Zeffereili’s film is presented in a typical Renaissance background in woods with hey in his mouth leaning to a tree, dressed in gorgeous Shakespearean costumes. He delivers the dialogues in such a way that the poetry is not lost-. they are low paced and with Shakespearean accents -language. But I think Lurhman’s modern Romeo wins our heart not only because he is Leonardo but also because Lurhman effectively used close ups, modern tactics and effective various modern music tracks to depict Romeo’s despondent mood.
Even though he uses American accents, I think this contrast helps us positively to understand what Romeo feels and says. Romeo in Lurhman is far more reflexive to Romeo in Zeffereili. The Oxymorans (in Lurhman) are repeated to reflect the confused wallowing Romeo in Rosaline’s ‘love’ (why then loving hate or …… ). When he asks Benvolio to leave him alone his nonconcen attitude is portrayed very well with his nonconcen walk. Lurhman successfully used close ups, body language and eye contacts to give us a chance to peep into the real nature of Romeo. Therefore, I liked Lurhman’s craft.