In Zeffirelli's film Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo finds Juliet "dead," what lighting technique and effect has Zeffirelli used and created?Relate them to a theme, please.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Franco Zeffirelli uses dual side lighting to create a dual impression of death and resurrection. First, a side light casts its beam toward the wall behind Juliet's head. This wall extends from foreground to midground. This is a side light and not a top-down light because of the position of the shadow cast by the torch in the wall. This light beam by-passes Romeo and avoids the wall and any other objects that are in the background; the background is left blackened.

A second beam from side lighting illuminates the crown of Juliet's head and the left side of Romeo's face . This light hits Juliet's cap and washes down over her forehead to softly illuminate her face. The beam also catches the funeral shroud as Romeo holds a corner of it aloft. The beam continues down the top of Juliet's body creating a vivid contrast to the surrounding darkness in three places: (1) the blackened background; (2) the dark, unlit front side of the funeral shroud draping down the side of Juliet's prone body and stone bed, which are in the foreground; (3) the shadow of Romeo's arm stretched across Juliet's body.

The same side light that illuminates Juliet also illuminates the left side of Romeo's face. The right side of Romeo's face is in deep shadow while the beam brightly illuminates the left side and the front of his face. The beam casts highlights across some of the waves of his darkened hair.

The heavy darkness that the sidelight casts parts of Romeo's face and body into and the sharp contrast between light and dark, enhanced by Romeo's dark costume, can be seen as foreshadowing of the permanent darkness that is to come, as can the dark shadow of Romeo's arm across Juliet's seemingly lifeless body. It is with darkness and light that Zeffirelli dramatizes the theme of death and resurrection, with the blackened background suggesting the final defeat of resurrection in conquering death.

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Romeo and Juliet

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