A Review of Luhrmann’s Romeo ; Juliet

‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ by Baz Luhrmann is a brilliant modern adaptation of the classic 16th century theatre tragedy, written by the most famous play-wright of all time, William Shakespeare. In this modern version of the 400 year-old classic, Romeo is a member of the Montague family and Juliet lives in the Capulet household.The two families have a long standing rivalry that’s recently been circulated by violent actions maintained by Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin and Romeo’s sworn enemy. Tensions run high and immediately a shootout occurs between the rival gangs. Romeo and Juliet first meet at a Capulet party/ball where her parents are trying to arrange her marriage to Dave Paris, a relative of the Prince of Verona, but Juliet falls for Romeo at first sight. The two hit it off immediately and are soon secretly married by Father Laurence.An enlightened Romeo then wants a truce between the families, but this only infuriates Tybalt, who ends up killing Romeo’s friend Mercutio during a trivial fight. Things go from bad to worse for the young lovers as their uncertain future takes another turn for the worse when Romeo is banished for killing Tybalt, and by a twist of bad luck and timing, the teenage lovers meet an untimely death.This remarkably glossy film is set on the glamorous streets of ‘Verona Beach’, a sunny, flashy, American city skyline dominated by a gigantic statue of Christ and two towering skyscrapers housing the Montague and Capulet empires. The storyline opens with shots of street-rioting between the warring clans, creating the effect of almost an American/Mexican gangster movie, with slick suits, beach shirts, flash cars with personalised plates and guns firing with deadly accuracy.Ironically, all guns in the film are made by a company called ‘Sword’ in an attempt to avoid clashing the original script with the modern theme of the film. The obvious attraction of a modern setting is that it can speak directly to a modern audience making it predictably popular with teenagers; however I feel at times Luhrmann goes a little over the top with the glossy theme and disturbs the intended motive of Shakespeare’s classic.Shortly after, Romeo and his loyal cronies Mercutio and Benvolio crash an evening party at the Capulet mansion in an act of true daring and defiance and it is there Romeo first lays eyes on Juliet, a vision of beauty. During this costume ball Luhrmann brings an array of sheer colour and glitter to the film, even before Romeo and Juliet share a scene.This mad frenzy of vibrant imagery is largely brought upon by the comical Mercutio (a black transvestite), who prances in scantily clad in a revealing outfit and soon proceeds in dancing wildly around the house. This vividly graphic scene is further illustrated by the dazzling Lady Capulet and her jovial husband Fulgencio Capulet, who are portrayed in the film as selfish, heavy-drinking drug takers, who seem more intent on throwing a glamorous party than being caring parents.Nonetheless, despite the adults being condemned for their lack of efficiency throughout the film, their very incompetence helps liven up the plot even further. This visual explosion, aided by the characters’ colourful costumes and brilliantly radiant strobe lighting effects launched by Luhrmann is played against a soundtrack varying from the up-tempo rock of Garbage to the classic compositions of Mozart, an example of the brilliant use of pathetic fallacy throughout ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ where the music and weather play a big part in determining the mood of the film.When Romeo and Juliet finally do meet, the wait seems worthwhile. The scene in which they first see each other, staring through a fish tank, is quite fascinating, as is Juliet’s dance with Paris when she is unable to take her eyes off Romeo, a scenario which anybody can relate to. Their connection is immediately registered, a convincing portrayal of love at first sight from the two actors, and DiCaprio and Danes share a sweet yet powerful chemistry. The way in which the two lovers attack the script adds more raw passion, as if both actors are discovering the language and the text for the first time. This integral scene in the film does well to maintain the intense romance for which ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ is famous for, whilst keeping the light-heartedness Luhrmann has tried to create throughout the film.Just a few days after the party, Romeo and Juliet are secretly married by the inept Father Laurence, but this predictably intensifies the rivalry between the two families like never before. This causes more uncontrollable street-fighting between the younger members of either family, and, following a series of deaths without a responsible adult figure in sight, Romeo flees from Verona and from a love that was destined to be written in the stars.In what seems like no time at all, the film reaches its gripping yet disappointing climax, with Romeo embracing what he believes to be a lifeless Juliet (thanks to more incompetence from Father Laurence) before taking his own life through the consumption of poison. To dishearten viewers further, Juliet evidently wakes early but is powerless for a split second too long to stop Romeo from committing suicide. Minutes later, she shoots herself with his gun. The newsreader concludes this tragedy by reciting the famous lines of the Prince from the original script.On the whole, this is a very polished, well-made film, with a unique comic edge created by Luhrmann. ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ is an action-filled teen romance which also retains the tragic force of Shakespeare’s original play, and Luhrmann also manages to make Shakespeare’s words an integral part of his film, which is well delivered by the actors, though at times they appear to struggle managing such vocabulary at such a speed.It is clearly evident that Luhrmann has created an atmosphere where Romeo and Juliet are placed in a world in which order has completely broken down, where all adults seem too irresponsible and powerless, including the Prince, to stop the violent rioting in the city’s streets and can do little more than observe the chaos from a police helicopter. The way in which Luhrmann has taken the original tragedy and turned it into a comic, vibrant and futuristic film, whilst maintaining its real motive and using Shakespeare’s language so effectively is really quite special, and in many ways is the factor that makes it so appealing to teenagers.However, it is at times a little over the top and downright cheesy, for example the way the characters dress and the whole modern setting and mafia-like ‘face-off’ at the beginning of the film, but all in all, it is a very entertaining film which makes Shakespeare more appealing and at times almost cool! A very unique and electrifying adaptation which in some ways appeals most to those who would not be interested in Shakespeare at all, which is quite an unusual yet refreshing way of recreating a William Shakespeare classic.

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‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ by Baz Luhrmann is a brilliant modern adaptation of the classic 16th century theatre tragedy, written by the most famous play-wright of all time, William Shakespeare. In this modern version of the 400 year-old classic, Romeo is a member of the Montague family and Juliet lives in the Capulet household. The two families have a long standing rivalry that’s recently been circulated by violent actions maintained by Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin and Romeo’s sworn enemy. Tensions run high and immediately a shootout occurs between the rival gangs.Romeo and Juliet first meet at a Capulet party/ball where her parents are trying to arrange her marriage to Dave Paris, a relative of the Prince of Verona, but Juliet falls for Romeo at first sight. The two hit it off immediately and are soon secretly married by Father Laurence. An enlightened Romeo then wants a truce between the families, but this only infuriates Tybalt, who ends up killing Romeo’s friend Mercutio during a trivial fight. Things go from bad to worse for the young lovers as their uncertain future takes another turn for the worse when Romeo is banished for killing Tybalt, and by a twist of bad luck and timing, the teenage lovers meet an untimely death.This remarkably glossy film is set on the glamorous streets of ‘Verona Beach’, a sunny, flashy, American city skyline dominated by a gigantic statue of Christ and two towering skyscrapers housing the Montague and Capulet empires. The storyline opens with shots of street-rioting between the warring clans, creating the effect of almost an American/Mexican gangster movie, with slick suits, beach shirts, flash cars with personalised plates and guns firing with deadly accuracy. Ironically, all guns in the film are made by a company called ‘Sword’ in an attempt to avoid clashing the original script with the modern theme of the film. The obvious attraction of a modern setting is that it can speak directly to a modern audience making it predictably popular with teenagers; however I feel at times Luhrmann goes a little over the top with the glossy theme and disturbs the intended motive of Shakespeare’s classic.Shortly after, Romeo and his loyal cronies Mercutio and Benvolio crash an evening party at the Capulet mansion in an act of true daring and defiance and it is there Romeo first lays eyes on Juliet, a vision of beauty. During this costume ball Luhrmann brings an array of sheer colour and glitter to the film, even before Romeo and Juliet share a scene. This mad frenzy of vibrant imagery is largely brought upon by the comical Mercutio (a black transvestite), who prances in scantily clad in a revealing outfit and soon proceeds in dancing wildly around the house. This vividly graphic scene is further illustrated by the dazzling Lady Capulet and her jovial husband Fulgencio Capulet, who are portrayed in the film as selfish, heavy-drinking drug takers, who seem more intent on throwing a glamorous party than being caring parents.Nonetheless, despite the adults being condemned for their lack of efficiency throughout the film, their very incompetence helps liven up the plot even further. This visual explosion, aided by the characters’ colourful costumes and brilliantly radiant strobe lighting effects launched by Luhrmann is played against a soundtrack varying from the up-tempo rock of Garbage to the classic compositions of Mozart, an example of the brilliant use of pathetic fallacy throughout ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ where the music and weather play a big part in determining the mood of the film.When Romeo and Juliet finally do meet, the wait seems worthwhile. The scene in which they first see each other, staring through a fish tank, is quite fascinating, as is Juliet’s dance with Paris when she is unable to take her eyes off Romeo, a scenario which anybody can relate to. Their connection is immediately registered, a convincing portrayal of love at first sight from the two actors, and DiCaprio and Danes share a sweet yet powerful chemistry. The way in which the two lovers attack the script adds more raw passion, as if both actors are discovering the language and the text for the first time. This integral scene in the film does well to maintain the intense romance for which ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ is famous for, whilst keeping the light-heartedness Luhrmann has tried to create throughout the film.Just a few days after the party, Romeo and Juliet are secretly married by the inept Father Laurence, but this predictably intensifies the rivalry between the two families like never before. This causes more uncontrollable street-fighting between the younger members of either family, and, following a series of deaths without a responsible adult figure in sight, Romeo flees from Verona and from a love that was destined to be written in the stars.In what seems like no time at all, the film reaches its gripping yet disappointing climax, with Romeo embracing what he believes to be a lifeless Juliet (thanks to more incompetence from Father Laurence) before taking his own life through the consumption of poison. To dishearten viewers further, Juliet evidently wakes early but is powerless for a split second too long to stop Romeo from committing suicide. Minutes later, she shoots herself with his gun. The newsreader concludes this tragedy by reciting the famous lines of the Prince from the original script.On the whole, this is a very polished, well-made film, with a unique comic edge created by Luhrmann. ‘ROMEO ; JULIET’ is an action-filled teen romance which also retains the tragic force of Shakespeare’s original play, and Luhrmann also manages to make Shakespeare’s words an integral part of his film, which is well delivered by the actors, though at times they appear to struggle managing such vocabulary at such a speed. It is clearly evident that Luhrmann has created an atmosphere where Romeo and Juliet are placed in a world in which order has completely broken down, where all adults seem too irresponsible and powerless, including the Prince, to stop the violent rioting in the city’s streets and can do little more than observe the chaos from a police helicopter.The way in which Luhrmann has taken the original tragedy and turned it into a comic, vibrant and futuristic film, whilst maintaining its real motive and using Shakespeare’s language so effectively is really quite special, and in many ways is the factor that makes it so appealing to teenagers. However, it is at times a little over the top and downright cheesy, for example the way the characters dress and the whole modern setting and mafia-like ‘face-off’ at the beginning of the film, but all in all, it is a very entertaining film which makes Shakespeare more appealing and at times almost cool! A very unique and electrifying adaptation which in some ways appeals most to those who would not be interested in Shakespeare at all, which is quite an unusual yet refreshing way of recreating a William Shakespeare classic.

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