Power Of Light In Romeo And Juliet

1399 Words6 Pages
In Shakespeare’s own time, audiences were transported into his plays through the power of language in the evocation of plot, set against the simply dressed stages of the Renaissance. However, as expectations of theatrical experience grow and audiences emerge that are either alienated from Shakespeare or numbed to his effect, directors attempt to demonstrate the playwright’s power in new ways. This tendency is intensified in film, where viewers expect a full setting to be visualised for them, in the absence the immediacy of action one gains from theatre. No text plays into these contemporary issues more than Romeo and Juliet. Whilst stage directions are sparse, characters’ preoccupation with ‘Verona’ pervades their language. A director’s challenge…show more content…
Whilst Zeffirelli’s Renaissance setting uses torchlight and candlelight, Luhrmann’s light is refracted across many sources, including fireworks and neon lights. Whilst this serves the sense of chaotic excess through which Luhrmann aims to ‘disarm’ audiences, Zeffirelli’s use of light appears more to serve character and plot development. For example, when Lady Capulet introduces the notion of marriage to Juliet, she is backlit by stained glass windows. Ramona Wray suggests Zeffirelli backlighting the lovers creates ‘glow and intensity’ that ‘stress purity.’ This effect is deliberately limited in this scene, as light is filtered by the window. Thus Juliet’s ‘enlightening’ awakening to the prospect of marriage remains concealed, as not yet coloured to the emotions of courtship. The muted light is perfectly befitting of the her measured speech; ‘I look to like, if looking liking move. Allen Denson calls the Mediterranean sun ‘saturating.’ Whilst bright light spreads fairly evenly throughout the film, this makes the change in the final scene more poignant. The grey sky creates a white parlour in the faces of the mourners, in sharp contrast to the brightly lit early scenes, as if the lovers death has drained the colour from the world. Whilst more fleeting than Zeffirelli’s continuous sun, Luhrmann's Romeo becomes synonymous with heavy saturated light, creating a repeated setting for his soliloquies. Zeffirelli's Romeo may be romantically backlit, but Luhrmann’s is constantly shot facing into the sun, making his features seem exposed and vulnerable. This is most poignant when the same orange light bathes Romeo as learns of Juliet's supposed death as when he once dreamed of Rosaline. Then comes the sharply contrasting cold blue of the tomb’s neon crosses. Cartmell argues the setting of this scene ‘lacks the intimacy of Zeffirelli’s’, but perhaps this lack of warmth was
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