Compare and contrast the character of Romeo in one of the original film versions of Romeo and Juliet with the Leonardo DiCaprio version.
Discuss directorial choices in asthetics, music, photography, costumes, makeup, etc.
Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Shakespeare's fateful character Romeo is most often compared to Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Romeo and Juliet from 1968 in which the character of Romeo was played by Leonard Whiting. The biggest difference between the two versions of the film, and therefore character portrayal, is that the Baz Luhrmann (Leo DiCaprio) version is not only filmed in the 1990's, but also is set during that time, though Shakespeare's original language was used in conjunction with the modern time setting, creating a surreal yet surprisingly "fitting" adaptation of the play. Because of the new modern times, Romeo's character seems much older and also much more experienced than in the Zeffirelli version which depicts a truly love-sick and innocent Romeo. Zeffirelli's Romeo seems much more naive and "clumsy" around Juliet (as evidenced in the romantic "kissing" scenes) and offers a "puppy love" explanation of their romance. Another difference is in Leonardo DiCaprio's extremely strong and mature depiction of Romeo's thrist for revenge on Tybalt for slaying his friend Mercutio. This may be DiCaprio's strongest moment in the Luhrmann film, exhibiting a true inner strength stemming from a very adult rage at his friend's slaying. Zeffirelli's Romeo still seems much more naive even in such a powerful scene.