Zeffirelli vs. Lurhmann: Romeo and Juliet

One of Shakespeare’s most well known plays, “Romeo and Juliet”, has been adapted to the screen many times since the year 1908. But the focus now is on two of the more successful, or well known, adaptations, Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1968), and Mark Anthony “baz” Lurhmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996). Some people prefer one over the other, and they have some significant differences, but the question is which one is better? Some may argue that Lurhmann’s film, being set in a modern day (or dystopian futuristic) version of verona, is not a very good adaptation as it is not so faithful.

In 1968 Franco Zeffirelli released the movie “Romeo and Juliet”. This movie followed the play very accurately and many people watch it when studying the story. The characters all seemed to match the ones in the play and the setting matched as well, being 1300’s Verona, Italy. The plot followed almost exactly accoriding to the original, only leaving out a few parts but still leaving the movie seeming complete. Overall the movie followed the original story very well and is of course the more faithful adaptation of the two movies.

Many other Romeo anf Juliet film adaptations were created after Zeffirelli’s one, but in 1996 Mark Anthony “baz” Lurhmann released a more modern version of the story as “Romeo + Juliet” which had a slight twist at the end, and may be a better movie. This modernized version did not have swords but instead had guns, despite guns seeming more powerful than swords, there was not as mutch tensions during fights because swords are close quarters and there is lots of parrying and dodging, which are things you can’t to with guns. The characters in this version were similar to those of the original play and the only main differences are the setting and the end. The thing that makes this movie a slightly better one than Zeffirelli’s one is that the end, and the events leading up to it, seem more serious. There are many small things that Lurhmann put into this movie, that when noticed, make a lot of sense and make the story a bit more interesting to think about. Something that he changed that improved the story a lot was at the end, when Romeo drinks the poison Juliet wakes up and they see each other, she then shoots herself and they both end up dead, just like the original. What this did was it “broke” the dramatic irony of the story when Romeo saw that Juliet was alive, since the audience knew she was alive the whole time this gives them hope that the story might actually end well, but this is not what happens. The effect of this is that it seems almost like a new story because the audience would have expected the same ending as all the versions of Romeo and Juliet, but this plot twist made it more exiting and unexpected, which is why it may be considered a better movie than Zeffirelli’s.

The question is not which movie is more faithful to the original story, but which is a better movie. Zeffirelli’s movie is no doubt the more faithful of the pair, but the way that Lurhmann made his version made it better as a movie. It did have strange scenes that were not very well done, but near the end it is more exiting, and the very end is shocking to anyone who has not seen the movie. Lurhmann’s version of the story is more creative, and despite being a bit weird, is a better movie than Zeffirelli’s

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