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Discuss the role of the musical score in Shakespeare film interpretation.

Discuss the role of the musical score in Shakespeare film interpretation.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Roisin McCrink. Originally submitted for English and Philosophy at None, with lecturer Dr. Ramona Wray in the category of English Literature
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Roisin McCrink. Originally submitted for English and Philosophy at None, with lecturer Dr. Ramona Wray in the category of English Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
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Discuss the role of the musical score in Shakespeare film interpretation.Abstract:This essay will explore the use of soundtrack in Shakespeare film interpretation, comparing
and contrasting the classical with the modern. The classical soundtracks of Franco Zeffirelli’s
 Romeo and Juliet 
and Kenneth Branagh’s
 Hamlet,
will be analysed against the modern
soundtracks of Baz Luhrmann’s
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet 
, which shall be citedas
 Romeo + Juliet,
and Michael Almereyda’s
 Hamlet.
The essay will present certain sceneswithin each of the films, and highlight how the musical addition of soundtrack portrays and
reaffirms the directors’ interpretations of the Shakespearean text, and how, ultimately, the
soundtrack is one of the most important features in Shakespeare film interpretation.
 
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In 1935, Prokofiev composed the musical score to a
 ballet based on William Shakespeare’s
 Romeo and Juliet,
which became one of the most recognisable interpretations of a
Shakespeare text (Jones). Prokofiev’s interpretation of the Shakespearean tragedy led the way
for music and soundtrack to have a major role in the interpretation and presentation of theShakespearean text. Thus, this essay will explore the use of soundtrack in Shakespeare filminterpretation, comparing and contrasting the classical with the modern. The classicalsoundtracks of Fr
anco Zeffirelli’s
 Romeo and Juliet 
and Kenneth Branagh’s
 Hamlet,
will be
analysed against the modern soundtracks of Baz Luhrmann’s
William Shakespeare’s Romeo
+ Juliet 
, which shall be cited as
 Romeo + Juliet,
and Michael Almereyda’s
 Hamlet.
Theessay will present certain scenes within each of the films, and highlight how the musical
addition of soundtrack portrays and reaffirms the directors’ interpretations of the
Shakespearean text, and how, ultimately, the soundtrack is one of the most important featuresin Shakespeare film interpretation.Before Zeffirelli directed
 Romeo and Juliet,
he had produced the Italian Opera
Cavalleria Rusticana,
which allows one to infer how important the medium of music was andhow to use it effectively to connect with its au
dience (Hindle170). Zeffirelli’s
 Romeo and  Juliet 
aimed to connect with the emotions of contemporary youth and it succeeded in the
summer of 1960 (Hindle 170). Thus, Nino Rota’s score was one that would transcend the
teenage audience past the text and become utterly engrossed in the film. In comparison,Luhrmann had worked in the opera house before he produced and directed
 Romeo + Juliet,
which also illustrates the importance Luhrmann placed on music to tell the story, to transcendand captivate, which is clearly seen in his production of 
 Romeo + Juliet 
(Hindle 177). The
original score to Luhrmann’s
 Romeo + Juliet 
was composed by Craig Armstrong, Marius deVries and Nellee Hooper, alongside various popular artists, and was geared for the MTVaudience, which can clearly be found in the opening montage of the film (Hindle 178, 179).
 
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The non-diegetic music of 
O Verona
, a choral and orchestral piece, clearly influenced by Carl
Orff’s
O Fortuna
, assaults and shocks the audience alongside the visual slam-zoomsuccession of images of violence, immediately bringing the audience into the action andpreparing them for an action-packed, violent and fast-paced interpretation of theShakespearean text (Hindle 178).
O Verona
is in a minor key signature, which, added to thefact that the choir sings on the beat and off the beat in a repetitive descending minorsequence, ominously forebodes the pace for the film. Of the section of 
O Verona
thataccompanies the montage of images in the prologue, it ends with a ritardando and a perfectcadence, portraying that the film will be filled with suspense and action, resulting in adefinite and final negative outcome.In contrast with the fast paced opening seque
nce of Luhrmann’s
 Romeo + Juliet 
is
Zeffirelli’s
 Romeo and Juliet.
In contrast with Luhrmann’s opening, Zeffirelli’s light
-heartedmelody in a major key signature, from the score composed by Nino Rota, to accompany anaerial pan shot of Verona, pictured as an old and misty city, sets the pace for the rest of thefilm (Hindle 172)
. The musical score is important here as the prologue’s final phrases include
a suspended discord, which is then resolved to finish with a perfect cadence, illustrating thetension and suspense that will be presented will resolve in a tragic, but, in a sense, perfectending.
Luhrmann’s portrayal of Romeo contrasts greatly with Zeffirelli’s interpretation. The
musical score, which accompanies the opening shots of Romeo, instantly enables one to
transcend beyond the text and realize that Romeo’s character 
has many complex dimensions,some that Luhrmann and Zeffirelli focus on and others that remain simmering in hispersonality. Act One Scene One
, which contains the stage direction “enter Romeo at adistance”
(1.1)
, is remarkably significant in both Luhrmann’s and Zeffirelli’s adaptions, as it
is the first instance of Romeo on screen. The close up of Romeo, with a cigarette in his

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