Puley, Aaron, “Caption This Picture (R&J: Balcony,) April 9, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015 from http://mrpuley.ca/
The classic Shakespearean play of Romeo and Juliet has many important scenes but the balcony scene is one of the most famous. There have been many adaptation to this particular part of the play in comics, novels, and movies. Many significant factors played a role in making this scene shine through or fail and consequently become a complete disappointment. Some of these factors include: the characters/cast, the setting, the music, and the position of Romeo and Juliet. I will be stating the differences between the original text (in graphic novel form,) the 1968 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film, and the 2013 adaptation by Carlo Carlei. The graphic novel and the 1968 films are very similar matching the book almost identically. Meanwhile, the 1996 and 2013 adaptations take a different approach to this iconic scene. I will be comparing the setting, the position of the characters, and the cast.
The graphic novel, the 1968 and 2013 versions of the film take the traditional approach with the balcony scene, whereas the 1996 version changes it up completely. In the 1996 adaptation, Romeo tries to see Juliet, but does not do this effectively. He makes a lot of noise, and is very clumsy. Furthermore, a huge difference is that there is a pool in her backyard, and this is the area they show their affection for each other, not on the actual balcony. There are also security guards, and the setting is overall more modern. The problem with this is that the whole point of the balcony was supposed to be that Romeo climbs to Juliet and that was where they swore that they loved each other; some of the magic was truly lost. Another issue with the setting in the 1996 version is the inclusions of the elevator, security camera, and other features that are not historically accurate for the time frame of Romeo and Juliet. In contrast, all three other versions do a good job at representing the scene. Romeo sneakily enters Juliet’s balcony climbing the wall and vines to get to her. There is a greater element of suspense, because you’re there thinking whether or not Romeo will get caught, or if the nurse will see him. There is no need for the addition of technology for this scene. The graphic novel keeps the setting fairly clean and minimalist with some trees, and the same for the 1968 version. However, in the 2013 version there are too much attention to detail and the balcony is surrounded by too many flowers and other items, which takes away from the focus which is the two main characters. Overall, the graphic novel and 1968 versions excel in this category.
The Position of Romeo and Juliet:
The reason why the positioning of these two star-crossed is because there is great meaning to it. Throughout the play, Romeo states that she is a celestial beauty, the moon is envious of her, and that her breath could even make the air sweeter. She is radiant and nobody can compare to one such as her. In the graphic novel, 1968 film, and 2013 film Juliet is high up on the balcony while Romeo is below either thinking about her (in the graphic novel,) or speaking quietly until he decides to speak. In the three versions (excluding the 1996 adaptation,) Romeo decides to speak up when Juliet admits that she has strong feelings for him and goes to kiss her multiple times. When she hears a sudden but familiar voice and realizes that it is Romeo, she is at first in shock, but is very pleased to see him. However, in the 1996 version she comes out of the main door and is not even on the balcony. Instead of Romeo climbing and being at the same level of ground as her, she comes to him. Afterwards, Romeo follows her for a little while then speaks. This produces the same amount of shock to Juliet, but was quite unnecessary and strange. Subsequently, they both fall into the pool and Juliet warns him that he might get caught, as she does in all of the other versions. You might be thinking if Juliet even enters the balcony or not, and she does, at the end where she exchanges a few final words with Romeo. Overall, the 1996 version did a poor job representing this scene, while the other adaptations followed the play and made a very good impression.
In this category, there is an obvious distinction between each version of the play. The graphic novel doesn’t have a cast, it has characters. Therefore, you cannot understand the true emotion of the scene because there aren’t any people acting. With that aside, it follows the play almost exactly, missing only a few lines. Moreover, the 1968 version had excellent casting. Romeo and Juliet’s characters were believable and showed true emotion which set the balcony scene apart from the rest. Juliet seems to genuinely care about Romeo, and is worried that he will be murdered by one of the kinsmen. This adaptation also follows the book exactly, and really lets you experience this scene how it was meant to be seen. In the 1996 version, the characters aren’t as believable and Claire Dane’s performance is lackluster. Furthermore, the nurse appears on the same balcony as Juliet. The nurse isn’t as significant as her in the play which makes the balcony (representing superiority,) misrepresented which wasn’t a good directing move. Finally, in the 2013 version a particular issue which appears is Juliet, played by Hailee Steinfeld, delivers her lines with little/no passion. This is a major disappointment and it is seen when she says the famous lines, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo which seems modernized. Finally, there are some word changes which I don’t prefer. Overall, the 1968 version wins this category.
Take a look at the horrible acting.
In conclusion, the graphic novel, the 1968 version, and the 2013 are all similar, with the exception of how Romeo talks/thinks about Juliet, the cast and the emotion delivered, and the setting. The 1996 is very different with a completely new setting, and a poorly executed balcony scene as a result of the positioning of the Romeo and Juliet. Looking at the balcony scene by itself, the 1996 was the worst because it was the least traditional, the 2013 version comes next with poorly executed lines and an overdone setting, the graphic novel comes second, and the 1968 takes the top spot with an excellent cast, a simple setting that puts all of the attention on Romeo and Juliet, music fit for the time and proper positioning of the two main characters.
Susan Wloszczyna was very critical on the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet. I agree that the vine and other accessories around Juliet’s background was unnecessary, and the acting was not that great. Aside from that, their positioning was appropriate, and at least it wasn’t near a pool. Comparing this to the 1996 version, Claire Danes’ acting was very boring, and dull. Hailee Steinfeld did a better job when it came to the balcony scene. Furthermore, I do not agree that the music was horrible. It set the mood for scene and I enjoyed it. Finally, although I haven’t seen the movie in it’s entirety, I do not agree that if it wasn’t done well then the movie shouldn’t have been made at all. There are many other important scenes in Romeo and Juliet such as them meeting for the first time, the ceremony where they got married, and their death to name a few. Overall, the scene wasn’t bad at all, there were some things that could have been improved but in the grand scheme of things, it was done fairly well and the balcony scene isn’t the most important scene in the movie so you can let it slide.
Click here to read Susan Wloszczyna’s full review and critique of the film and comment what you think: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/romeo-and-juliet-2013