The Romantic Element Supported by Lighting and Camera Angles (Romeo and Juliet Movie Review)
Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s films on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet helped develop the sense of a loving mood through camera angles and low-key lighting so that their films follow Shakespeare’s play. Low-key lighting will be used in the first paragraph to match the order of film techniques in the films, while camera angles will be the second paragraph. The order of the films would be Zeffirelli and Luhrmann, to show the oldest first, then the newer one last. Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s use of film techniques follow the same idea that Shakespeare wanted, but because they had to film Romeo and Juliet, the film techniques provided a stronger, romantic mood.
Low-key lighting was used because it helps convey the loving mood of that scene, but because Zeffirelli and Luhrmann incorporated that film technique for the balcony scene, it adds more of a romantic mood to the film. Shakespeare’s use of lighting was used to make Juliet look more beautiful, radiating love energy: “But, soft! What light through the yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon” (2.2.2-4). In Zeffirelli’s film, the lighting, in the beginning, was already very dim, to begin with; the only light in the room was coming from the sky and was focused on the center of the room, giving the viewer suspense (Zeffirelli 0:13). The only light coming into the frame was from the moon and the torches from Romeo’s friends (Zeffirelli 0:55). In Luhrmann’s version, the beginning started with barely any light, the leaves obscured Romeo as he climbed into Juliet’s property, sneakily (Luhrmann 0:01). The pool lights were the only given light when Romeo and Juliet were kissing and spilling their thoughts (Luhrmann 4:57). Shakespeare used low lighting to dramatize Juliet’s beauty in Romeo’s eyes. Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s intentions of having a dim light were to show that Romeo’s love for Juliet will not be suppressed by the threat of being killed or banished. Besides the suspenseful lighting that Romeo is going into Capulet territory, the love also focuses on their love, where the pool lights served as a rebirth for the two as they share their thoughts about love for each other.
Additionally, camera angles are used to capture the beauty and romantic mood by using low-shots and zoom-ins to show how passionate Romeo and Juliet are to one another, and how their love only strengthens. As Romeo pours his heart out for Juliet, the camera angle captures Juliet at a low angle, making her seem heavenly as Romeo talks about heaven: “As glorious to this night, being o’er my head, / As is a wingèd messenger of heaven” (2.2.30-31). In Zeffirelli’s film, Romeo was the only one on the ground, while Juliet was very high up, on her balcony (Zeffirelli 2:17). When the camera captured both of their faces, the romantic theme was conveyed as Romeo and Juliet shared their thoughts. The low-shot in Luhrmann’s version occurs late into the scene where Juliet is prepared to leave Romeo. The romantic element in this low-shot is when Juliet and Romeo have a loving goodbye towards one another, and Juliet is seen from the low-angle, as they prepare to meet again shortly (Luhrmann 7:26). Along with the low-shot, the close-up happened as both Romeo and Juliet were in the pool together, adding another romantic element to the scene (Luhrmann 4:57). Shakespeare’s use of positional and symbolic words, like the sun and the heavens, described the low-shot and gave the reader a good image of Romeo’s devout love for Juliet. In both Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s films, their use of low-key lighting and close-ups add a romantic element to the scene by providing the viewer with only their love captured.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. 1597.
Zeffirelli, Franco. Romeo and Juliet. Paramount, 1968.
Luhrmann, Baz. Romeo + Juliet. Twentieth Century Fox, 1996.