Romeo and Juliet is a timeless, classic love story written by the incomparable William Shakespeare. Many of Shakespeare’s works are considered literary classics, but none are more loved than Romeo and Juliet. This play masterfully tells the love story of two teenagers in Elizabethan England. The title characters Romeo and Juliet are members of two feuding families, Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. There are different stylistic ways of portraying Romeo and Juliet, and the two most popular film versions portray two very different styles of this one play. Zeferelli's Romeo and Juliet was made in the 1970s, and is the film version most commonly shown in high school classrooms. The newest film version of this play is Baz Luhrmanns Romeo and Juliet. This version sets the classic story in a modern day setting. Both versions, while different stylistically, hold true to the basic story line of the play.
Zeferelli’s is the older and more classical version of Romeo and Juliet. Zeferelli uses the setting of Verona, and the costumes that were appropriate to Elizabethan England. He does take liberties with the dialogue, in that he shortens many of the monologues made by the characters. This is the version that is most commonly shown in high school classrooms, because while some of the sexual puns are included they are in no way stressed. Another thing that is not brought out in Zeferelli's version is the common assessment of Mercutio's sexual preference. It is commonly believed that Mercutio was interested in Romeo in sexual way, and that he possessed very homosexual qualities. Zeferelli simply portrays Mercutio as Romeos friend. One thing that set Zeferelli’s film apart from other films of its time was the fact that he used teenage actors to portray the teenage Romeo and Juliet. Using teenage actors gave the characters of Romeo and Juliet the simplicity and innocence they seemed to posses.
Zeferelli made the directorial decision to set the play in Verona during the Elizabethan period in which it was originally attended. The costumes, language, and sword fights were directly reminiscent of the period. In complete contrast to this Baz Luhrmann made the directorial decision to set this classic play in modern day Venice Beach. The costumes, setting, and swords were all updated, but the language remained the same. Some critics criticized Luhrmanns decision to update everything but the language. In his defense Luhrmann said that if he updated the language he would no longer be able to call his film William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, because it would no longer be Shakespeare.
Baz Luhrmann took directorial liberties with the setting, and costuming of the play. His film was set in the modern day in Venice Beach. His characters fought with guns rather than swords. The law-making Prince was replaced with a police chief. Luhrmann may have updated the setting of the play, but he actually used a lot more of...