To complete this task I have watched Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In this essay I intend to look at the post-modern features he incorporates in the film. I also want to look at why he has chosen to present a particular scene in this manner.
If we look at this film, we see that is certainly a post-modern text. It makes use of intertexuality and bricolage. Baz Lurhmann decides to play with genres – old with new.
He takes a Shakespearean play and modernises it by producing it in the 20th century Western World. It uses bricolage as it
makes use of a mixture of high and low culture.
If we choose to concentrate on the opening of the film, we find that there is a news anchorwoman reading the prologue from the play. In my opinion this is done as it links with the modern idea, that it is part of media frenzy and a tabloid headline.
This may be a contemporary setting, yet the film is very precise to the text.
In relation to text we find when we look at the script, Baz Lurhmann decided to say true to the original Shakespearean language. He wanted to find a visual means of bringing obscure references to life – relying not just on the spoken word alone, but the directness of visual idea – to show what was being described. (Taken from Romeo and Juliet task sheets)
The opening sequence after the prologue opens with a montage of 96 shots.
This was done to illustrate the prologue and is played out in a rapid flow of image. This is a post-modern feature as it confuses time and space. The opening of the film has a very pop video feel to it. The delivery of speech appears to be similar of a rap performance. This again ties in with the mixing up of a very modern western world with very old English setting.
If we look closely at the opening in the petrol station, we find many similarities to today’s soap operas. The names of each character are listed and there is many an advertisement. This is again a clear example of intertexuality, another very post-modern concept.
Baz Lurhmann wanted to bring the script to life and as Romeo and Juliet was set in a world of violence and religion he selected Mexico for filming. He did this as he believes that there are ‘Textual facts in the play, having to do with Elizabethan England, that exist in Mexico.’ These textual facts
included the population, rich and poor and violence. He interpreted all these Elizabethan things in the modern, created world.
Interestingly when on location in Mexico, ordinary people thought that the scenes where real. This distinguishes culture and society and the kind of world we live in today. This is post-modernism in extreme as what is real life and Hollywood became blurred.
This montage include many things such as the face of Jesus from the statue, a zoom out shows use that this is in fact flanked by two building twice it’s size. These being the building of the opposite sides – Red for ‘CAPULET’ and blue for ‘MONTAGUE.’ This is again confusing old with new.
The film also makes great use of advanced technology and clip editing to piece the film together – so that the overall effect is explosive. Before the actors had been selected computer generated images – provide information on whether the film would work visually. If we look at the costumes and the props used, we find that it has a big 1950’s feel to it. The clothes worn and cars used indicated this – as there was a lot of beachwear and the two tribes both had big American 1950’s cars.
One of my favourite post-modern elements was Mercutio was dressed as a female. That made use of a very modern day ‘transsexual’ issue that exists in today’s society. The fairground scene was also very characteristic of a western world. It incorporated elements such as glam disco music and drugs all very real in modern American Culture.
Baz Lurhmann’s aim was to break down distinctions and determined to devise a ‘created’ world in which language and the more obscure elements of the elements of the plot could be simplified.
In conclusion this film takes a very high cultured play and marries it with