In Zeffirelli’s movie, Romeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli produced good aurals, visuals, and design; but, the poor text and mediocre acting were his downfall.
One of the aurals, music, played only when Romeo and Juliet were alone or in a scene together. Yet, everyday noises could be heard in the background. These noises represent symbols in the movie. For example, when the Prince approached in a scene, a trumpet, symbolizing justice, announced his arrival and departure. A church bell rang when violence or death occurred. In the scene where Mercutio fought Tybalt and Romeo fought Tybalt the bell rang. It was announcing Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths and the fight between the three actors.
Singing was limited as an aural. At the Capulet’s party a man sang about two lovers’ journey, Romeo and Juliet’s journey. Mournful singing took place at Juliet’s funeral procession.
The text throughout the movie was horrible. Zeffirelli left out too many important parts to the plot of Romeo and Juliet. This leaves the viewer with more questions. One major omission from the movie was after Lord Capulet gave Peter the invitations for the party, Peter did not run into Romeo and Benvolio and invite them. So, anyone who has not read the book is left with questions about how Romeo and Benvolio, who are not friends of the Capulets, knew the Capulets were having a party.
The events leading up to Romeo’s death are also vague in the movie. In the book, Romeo is walking along thinking about killing himself so he and Juliet can be reunited in death. He walks by an apothecary’s shop as he decides to poison himself. He haggles with the apothecary and finally buys the poison. However, in the movie, Romeo is riding off to the tomb to see Juliet who he thinks is dead. Zeffirelli took out the entire scene of Romeo at the apothecary. This makes for confusion if one does not know the storyline.
The way Zeffirelli designed the sets for the movie couldn’t have been better. The lighting throughout the movie fit the moods that Zeffirelli was trying to bring out. In Friar Lawrence’s basement it was dimly lit with candles that cast a glow on the brick walls and glass jars that contained varieties of plants. It fit the description from the book perfectly.
All of the costumes used in the movie gave an excellent example of how women dressed during the Renaissance. The women’s costumes were bright and colorful with ruffles, stripes, and buttons galore. Yet, the men’s clothing differed from what they actually wore in the Renaissance greatly. Normally, clothing in the Renaissance is described as colorful, bright and had a lot of ruffles, like the women’s. The clothing the men wore in the movie were very tight and bleak. Romeo’s clothing was gray, white and black.
Melodramatic acting in the movie was probably the worst aspect. Romeo and Juliet overacted the kissing and emotions. Tybalt and Mercutio were better. Probably the best performance was that of the nurse. Her emotions and movements depicted the character in the book perfectly. However, on the whole, most of the performances were boring and partly over.
The narrator from the movie, who resembled the chorus from the book, possessed no emotion whatsoever. He possessed a very monotone voice the entire time. It was as if he did not enjoy the movie at all, but was only there for the money. A bit of the acting was fine including Tybalt and Mercutio.
Overall, the design and visuals were the best aspects of the movie. Zeffirelli did a pretty decent job of bringing William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to life. What he should have done better was to include more of the important passages from the book and to make sure the actors, specifically Romeo and Juliet, from over doing it.