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Analysis of Baz Luhrmann’s Film Rework of ‘romeo and Juliet’

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In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, an altercation between the Montague and Capulet families that has been going on for generations, disrupts the city of Verona and causes cataclysmic results for the protagonists, Romeo and Juliet. Revenge, love, and a secret marriage end up forcing the young star crossed lovers to mature quickly and fate ends up causing them to commit suicide in despair and grief. Love and conflict are constant themes throughout Shakespeare’s play. Astounding music, lightning cuts, superb cinematography, amazing sets and costumes make it the entertaining tale Shakespeare meant it to be. These looks also make the film somewhat almost cartoon like with a lot more realism. Baz Luhrmann’s beautiful film rework of Romeo and Juliet left the world in utter astonishment with his modern variation of the ancient 16th century play. He reinforces the main themes of the play to an incredible standard, which aids the audience in fully grasping the play in a modern setting.

The balcony scene contains some of the most memorable and recognizable quotes in Shakespeare’s entire career as a playwright. Romeo and Juliet at last reveal their undying love for each other. At Juliet’s sudden but expected suggestion plan to marry “Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed. If that thy bent of love be honorable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow”. Thus, as Romeo steps from the moonlit darkness into the light from Juliet’s balcony, he has left behind his theatrical burden and has moved towards a more mature yet genuine true understanding of love. Luhrmann introduces audiences to a modernized balcony scene. His intention was to make it easier for the audience to understand and fully comprehend while still enforcing Shakespeare’s true intentions. Baz’s interpretation does an exceptional job of reinforcing Shakespeare’s idea of Love by projecting what he would have imagined while reading the play. Romeo scales up the wall that leads to Juliet’s famous balcony. The camera shot that is used is a close up of Romeo to show the emotional distress that he feels. Luhrmann’s representation is different to the text as Juliet does not say her famous lines from the balcony, but instead comes down from her room to the pool outside, where she recites the same lines with passion thinking of her true love Romeo.

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The brief but hopeful tone that Act II had successfully reinforced in the audiences mind suddenly changes suddenly at the start of Act III. Romeo becomes entangled in a barbarous conflict between the two feuding families. The blistering heat, fuming tempers, and the abrupt brutality of this particular scene counted the previous romantic and peaceful night. The play suddenly reaches a breathtaking uphill battle as Romeo and Juliet’s confidential world skirmish with the negative public attitude that ends up with tragic consequences. Mercutio’s death is the motivation for the tragic yet predicted turn that the play takes from this point onward. Luhrmann’s own approach to this scene was successful. He was able to present it in such a way that all people could understand and not be left confused. For example, Mercutio is quoted by saying, “By my heel, I care not.” In addition, the movie Mercutio puts his heels up on a table and repeats that quote. To make sure the film stayed within its period he had to cut out some parts of the play. The most noticeable to an untrained ear is in act 3 scene 1 and it is Mercutio’s long speech (Lines 15-28).

The play can be seen as a series of bad decisions, coincidences and bad luck, most people see the play as an assortment of events which have already been pre-determined by fate. With the opening lines of the play, Shakespeare allows the audience to have the knowledge about his characters destiny. We learn quite early on, what is actually going to happen throughout the play. “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.” Another example is before the Capulets’ party, in Act 1 Scene 3. Romeo begins to get the feeling that fate may be planning his doom. He wonders to himself if he should attend the party, as “my mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars.” During the prologue in Luhrmann’s interpretation, the newswoman talks about the matters between Romeo and Juliet with pictures in the back, which introduces the two brawling families. The theme of fate was changed in the movie to be better understood by a 20th century audience. The anchor recites Shakespeare’s prologue. The famous line “A pair of star crossed lovers, take their lives” implies that two lovers whose relationship is not blessed by the stars will be ill fated.

Luhrmann did a superb job of reinforcing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He fully reinforced it but with a modern twist. The audience can only assume that he did this to appeal to a younger audience and show them the world-renown play in a way that the world had never seen before. Although, he did add some noticeable changes to some scenes, a great example of this was the balcony scene. Using the modernized setting, he made the famous balcony scene into a pool scene, which may have captured the audience more than the original.


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