Baz Lurhmann invites us to the world of Romeo and Juliet with a breath taking introduction. Heart throb Leonardo Di Caprio plays the gorgeous, hopeless romantic, hero of Juliet’s dreams, Romeo. Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet would unequivocally blow Shakespeare’s mind in absolute amazement. This tragic love tale will keep you on the edge of your seat wide eyed, mesmerised and desperate to find out about these ‘two star cross’d lovers’.
Lurhmann intentionally plunges you into the modern world where Shakespearian old fashioned English is spoken. Romeo and Juliet isn’t just about love, lust, and infatuation; It is jam packed with action, humour and thrills. This hypnotic film sets you back to your first love; Lurhmann re-encounters and encapsulates the inner feeling of sexual tension and alienation. This phenomenon will send you on a roller coaster between love, hate, sexual desire and envy. Lurhmann cleverly uses modern media to unscramble and decode the language of Shakespeare. Fire flickers onto the screen to symbolise the violence which contrasts to the religious icons shown in ‘fair Verona were we lay our scene’.
‘Two households both alike in dignity’ is how the news reporter casually commences. She speaks very directly, professionally and monotonously; She shows no emotion in how she speaks. She dresses and looks like an average modern, American woman. However, as soon as she opens her mouth we are mesmerized by the unfamiliar way she speaks. She uses Elizabethan language. Suddenly the camera zooms into the T.V and the news, focussing all our attention on the news reader.
Like a blurb of a book, the news reader gives us the basic plot of the film. She informs us viewers of two wealthy families caught in an ‘ancient’ feud and two lovers who have a tragic ending. We find ourselves intrigued and curious to find out how their misfortune unravels and how this unfortunate story unfolds!
From the T.V and the comfort of our living room we’re dragged forwards through the T.V into another world entitled ‘fair Verona’ which is ironic- you’d think Verona, being named fair would be a sweet place to live, possibly a small villa with wisteria draping over the door way and acacia climbing up white gates. Wrong! - as it clashes and contrasts with the chaos and madness shown in the city in later scenes. The sun beams off the tall buildings and reflects on the cars stuck in the hustle and bustle of violent
Verona. The opening is
absolutely amazing, feeding my eyes and ears from a banquet of brilliance!
Suddenly chorale music is played. Strings play dramatically, screeching,
emphasizing the violence, passion and drama in Verona. We then hear a voice over in a deep, manly
voice. The prologue is repeated with flash images and titles to back up and
decode the prologue and its meaning. The use of repetition makes the prologue
recognisable and easier to understand. It is accessible and shows passion and
force as it is spoken with emotion while fire flashes and flickers randomly
onto our screen.
After being dragged through the streets of
Verona via aerial shots we see a big statue
of Christ in between two immense building with signs of Montague and Capulet
suggesting that they live two similar, materialistic lives but on the other
hand it shows the division in the city. The statue of Christ is in the middle
of these two separate worlds showing that they’re a religious society. In
addition the statue’s hands seem to be holding the two blocks apart as though
Jesus is keeping them apart to stop the violence. Lurhmann gives us the idea that
this ‘grudge’ has been going on for a long time. He successfully shows us a
glimpse of the two family trees, showing us pictures of Romeo and Juliet only
when they were little suggesting they are not part of this violent society and
that they are innocents of this ‘gang war’. The scream of a child signifies the
loss of innocence, destroyed by gang violence.
At this point Lurhmann brings in modern media. Newspapers are thrown erratically onto the screen. Bold headlines show that this ‘ancient grudge’ is very much in the public eye and because they are in black and white it shows that it has been going on for a long time. Another example that shows off their fame is ‘a pair of star cross’d lovers take their life’ written in a caption across the screen and the t in take is written in gothic style and resembles a cross, again elevating the action to high drama and emphasizes their unconditional love for each other and that their fate is grave with a mortal ending. Suddenly the dramatically enhanced music plays again adding emphasis to the drama. The characters are introduced like a modern day soap opera using freeze frames but yet again Romeo and Juliet aren’t shown insinuating that they aren’t part of the modern society. The images speed past the screen showing the rush and emphasizing thrill and excitement.
This film has it all! The appeal to a younger audience is apparent with current and contemporary costumes, modern music, drugs, violence and sexual references. The perfect ingredients to cook up a new, modern age version of this unquestionably, most beloved (yet tragic) love story and make it relevant to current teens. Even to this day,-after watching Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet round about a hundred times- I still goggle at the T.V wide eyed and mesmerised at the range of vibrant colours and different textures used. The characters wear clothes that are apparent to match their personalities. The Capulet boys dress extravagantly with comical t-shirts, brightly coloured hair and outrages tattoos to match their bubbly, foolish and merry personalities. On the other hand, the Montague boys intrude this humorous scene wearing dark vest, smart trousers and grills. They stand out; everything is bright and colourful yet they are dressed in black. This makes them seem more serious and violent (I find it very hard to imagine the pink haired Capulet shooting someone!) as they are wearing the colour usually used to symbolise death...
Lurhmann’s flamboyant direction pumps energy, excitement and new life into this familiar, much adapted tale. Lurhmann’s adaption to this well-known play made Shakespeare once again cool, fashionable and after watching this spectacular version of the classic love story, Romeo and Juliet, even I am contemplating watching another of his plays!