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‘Romeo and Juliet’ has been recreated many times over the years, but the most interesting, emotional, and affective, in my opinion is the production by Baz Lurhmann. He was very brave in doing this, as most people would not want him to ruin the original by Shakespeare, but he did a brilliant job of it.
Baz Lurhmann used media to make the film more accessible for a teenage audience. He used media at the start, at the prologue to draw the audience in, and then throughout the rest of the film to keep the audience interested. I will be explaining what modern day references he used, the different film genres he used, modern day music and clothing, language and the use of symbolism. I will be using a few particular scenes to describe in more detail, being the prologues, the gas station scene, and the party.
Teenager would normally find Shakespeare off-putting because of the language that is used; they find it too complex and too unlike the language that they are used to, the difficult plots, but when you actually read some of his plays, I think they aren’t as complex as people think they are. The costume plays a big part in why it is off-putting as the males wear tights, and clothes that girls would wear now. It is also very old fashioned because of the language used, and some of the jokes he uses.
At the start he uses a newsreader as a narrator of the prologue. She is a stereotypical female newsreader. This attracts teenagers automatically because they watch a lot of television today. A male voice-over repeats Shakespeare’s opening dialogue, but it is the visual spectacle that keeps the audience enthralled right up until the film’s title is boldly sprawled across the screen. It is fast-paced, with cut-outs of newspapers to show the family’s feud. He also shows parts of the city, and what’s happening. This makes the audience sit on the edge of their seat, due to it filling them with excitement. The characters are introduced as though they are from a soap opera, with a still shot of the character, and their names next to them. The image of Jesus is used a lot; to show that both families had a lot to do with religion, also, every time a statue of Jesus appeared, there was choir music in the background, to help to relate to with what you are seeing.
In the gas station scene, which is the second scene, a lot of imagery is used, for example, there are guns used to fight with, instead of swords, unlike in the play. There are many different camera shots used in this, there is the close up when Benvolio has his gun out, it says sword, like the play says, but it is actually a gun, so the young audience can relate to it, there is also a close up of Tybalt’s shoe when he gets out of the car, and squashes the cigarette. At this point, the music changes to a western type, to make the scene look like it’s from a western movie. There is a wide shot used, when both opponents are on each end, which is like a western genre. There is a point of view shot used when we see Tybalt aiming for the Montague car from the crosshair. The most used one is medium, when we see both families in their cars, which they didn’t have in the written play, and there are also number plates, so this makes it a lot easier to understand, even though it is still in Shakespearian language.
The costume that is worn is very modern, the Montagues wear decorative shirts that are open, and the Capulets wear smarter clothes, like the Mafia would. There are also more genres used, action and adventure when there are the car chases, and comedy, with the way that the Montagues act, when they dance in front of the nuns, and the way they react when they see the Capulets behind. Love is also used, as Romeo falls in love with Juliet, but cannot be with each other, because of their families. The music reaches a deafening crescendo as this scene climaxes and Benvolio and Tybalt stand screaming at each other in the street, guns aimed and ready to fire.
In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the language stays Shakespearian, but Lurhmann uses imagery to interpret what the words mean, to make it more understandable for the younger audience. He uses facial expressions, exaggerated actions, farce, and tone of voice to help you understand what is going on. It could have been in any language; because the film is so visual you would understand it. The music is also very intense, as it fluctuates between being very quiet, and hard to hear, then extremely loud, and that being all you can hear.
Teenagers would like this film because it has modern actors that they can relate to because they are young, and beautiful (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes), the priest has a tattoo, the petrol station at the start, guns rather than swords, skyscrapers and large, industrial buildings, open prostitution, and he also uses a lot of symbolism. He also uses billboards to advertise things like we do today. They would also like the contrast between Verona beach, and the mansion. At the beach it is as though no one cares what is going to happen, because Tybalt starts the fight, and no one is really that bothered. The clothing is all tattered and torn. There is litter everywhere, and dereliction.
When they meet is a big scene, and it is at the party. Benvolio takes Romeo to the Capulets party to try and get Rosaline out of his head, intent that Romeo will meet someone there. The camera shots use in this are pan shots when Romeo is spinning round, due to the drug he has just taken. The lighting is artificial, flashing lights, as it is a party. The music is fast-paced and party-like, but when the two lovers are in the lift, the lighting is dimmed and romantic, and the music is slow and soft. When they realise who each other is, the music become depressing.
Symbolism is used a lot in the film, especially at the ball, Romeo is the shining knight in armour who has been sent to rescue Juliet, and Juliet is a bright angel, innocent and pure, who has been sent to relieve Romeo’s confusion and despair. This could also be portrayed as Juliet being Romeos guardian angel. Tybalt is the devil, and both cannot be trusted, and it is Tybalt who later commits the act of murder, an evil deed that sets off the tragic chain of events that lead to Romeo and Juliet’s parting and death. Lady Capulet is Cleopatra, and Lord Capulet is Julius Caesar. Paris is an astronaut, which symbolises the ‘all American hero’. More symbolism used is when Romeo is on one side of the fish tank, and Juliet is on the other. The fish tank represents the feud going on between the families, and they can see each other, but cannot be with each other. Fire and hearts are used a lot; fire represents the hate between the families, and the hearts represent the love between Romeo and Juliet. It is very ironic that he puts pictures of the Virgin Mary and child on weapons of violence, i.e. guns. There is also a statue of Christ in between the Capulet building and the Montague building.
He uses lighting a lot, for example, at the Capulet Ball, it’s bold and bright, to convey the feeling of the characters, and that they are all excited and happy. During the pool scene the lighting is pastel blue, because it is reflected off the water, and gives the atmosphere a romantic mood. He uses pathetic fallacy a lot, like when there is an argument at the beach, you can see a storm brewing, like the characters feelings, and it is raining when Romeo kills Tybalt, Luhrmann uses water in these scenes to show that it symbolises life, and love.
I think that this movie was a big success with teenagers, and Baz Luhrmann is a brilliant director in doing what he did. I thought the best parts of the film was the prologue, the petrol station scene, and the last scene, because these have the most modern day references in them, and they are easier to relate to.