In fair Verona, a pair of star crossed lovers takes their lives. Leonardo Dicaprio and the rather attractive Clair Danes take on the distinguished role of playing Romeo and Juliet in the modern remake of William Shakespeare’s epic Love story.
Luhrman recreated this dazzling and unconventional adaptation in 1997, carefully picking the actors to portray Romeo and Juliet and moved them from the Elizabethan origins and placed them in the urban backdrops of Verona beach, LA, thus making the movie at once modern and unconventional.
The movie opens with a scene from a modern news report, but contains old language. The first image appears to be a TV approaching from far towards us with the sound of the news reporter’s voice. This immediately grabs the audience’s attention due to the serious voice being used by the reporter. The audience has the movies attention, and then the feeling of curiosity settles in as they start to make sense of what the reporter is saying. As the picture of the TV screen approaches, a broken ring with the text ‘star crossed lovers’ can be seen. This lays out the main setting of the movie; it tells the audience that the movie is a love story which encountered problems.
This would interest the audience because modern society is very impatient and would want to know immediately what the story was about; also, the audience would want to know what the problem was, therefore keeping the viewer interested and increasing their curiosity. Luhrman placed the story in a news report because it would take something pretty serious or of great importance to make it onto news headlines, therefore, again grabbing the viewers attention and wanting them to know more.
After the scene of the news report, there is a camera shot zooming down a city street, which had a very modern and modernised and developed population, at immense speed then stopping at a statue of Jesus. By doing this, Luhrman immediately showed that the rest of the movie would follow with great speed and would involve a religious portrayal. This statement could be backed up by the gothic music that was being played in they backround, which was probably used to increase the speculation of trouble; witch started slow, then increases in tempo. Then, the camera zooms out a bit and shows two buildings with the family names Capulet and Montague either side of the statue of Jesus. This camera shot would suggest to the audience that the two family names were competing for the role of god. The audiences response to this would be that two family were trying to beat each other in status, and that each family compared themselves to god, but neither of them were at that standard because Jesus was still in the middle.
The two families being either side of Jesus would also indicate the names had great power and importance as they were at a gods level. This would encourage the viewers that there was arch rivalry and heavy competition, which compares with modern society which also tries to be the best at everything.
The film is set in modern society because today audience are not really interested in the past and want to see more up to date scenes. Also, the viewers may find that they would like something there that could relate to, instead of just using their imagination.
Set in modern Verona beach, we see police swat teams with hi tech weapons and vehicles which related to modern society, racing around, with quick flashes of the statue of Jesus again, flowed by scenes of violence, death, injury, and fire. This set the scene of the movie in a highly populated city with raging conflict that involved the presence of police. This would excite the audience by letting them know that the film
Would contain lots of action, violence and death. This was probably introduce to the film in this stage because he wanted to let the viewers know that this was not some boring love story. There was then a news paper with the headline Montague vs. Capulet, which show that again this conflict was very serious and was high profile. This would have let the audience know again that this was ordinary quarrel. While we are seeing these scenes, we hear a very serious and important sounding voice. The reason for this would have been to verbally introduce the viewer to the major problem; this would help in the effect of creating that verbal and visual indication of a major problem.
During the introduction, we repeatedly see extensive international media coverage including newspaper headline which show that this quarrel was a long term problem. We also see repeated images of the police what teams in action with their ground and air teams. There was a scene of helicopter flying through the air. This would have excited the audience by showing them that there was lots of violence and disruption, which today’s audience would not normal expect in a love story.
We see black and white text containing line of the prologue. The white on black text would have indicated that the situation was very simply but yet very opposite. It showed boldness and included the theme of religion once again. This theme was show whenever text containing the letter T was involved, the T was show in the shape of Jesus cross, this may have also indicated the theme of death. This would have really involved the viewer because they would have had to read the text, when they read the text they would have felt like they were involved in the situation, not many films would make someone do that.
After the characters are introduced, we see very fast moving images and text. This would have helped indicate the important theme of pace. The audience would have really had to struggle to make out what each scene was, this again making them have to work to make out what was happening, which also not many films do. This would have told the audience that in order to understand what was happening fully they would have had to open their eyes and ears which would have intrigued the viewer and kept them interested.
Luhrman used a variety of shots to show the areas of most importance. The images with most importance and significance are the shots which have been zoomed in on and been paused for a short period of time. There where also panned shots. This told the viewer that images contained in the shots had the greater significance and/ or showed a specific them i.e. The repeated focuses of Jesus’s statue and the cross for the letter T. These scenes would intrigue the viewer by laying out a very basic structure of the movie.
Luhrman used a variety of enhanced sound affects to enhance the visual spectacle been given, increasing the depth and involvement of the audience. He used such effects as high pitched zooms, bass sounds in the music, a helicopters rotors turning in the background, police sirens, raging fire and piercing bullets and so on. The sound effects of the zoom for instance would also propose the theme of pace once again. If this film was viewed in a cinema or a TV with digital surround sound, the sound effects would be heard much more clearly and individually amongst the rest of the backdrop sound. This would dramatically improve the audio quality and make the viewer feel as if they were actually there, therefore, making the film techniques appeal much more to the viewer. The narrator’s voice was shown to be very serious, cold and stern, yet also informative. The voice was a voice that made you want to listen and made you want to find out more. The narrator’s voice did not seem to be bias and take a side. At times the narrator showed slight emotion which got the audience into the frame of mind which showed the pain and suffering. This emotion would have the audience see that the film was so full of emotion that it could bring narrator’s figure of boldness and seriousness to an almost tear.
In this modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, the two families are described as ‘both alike in dignity’. It was also said that conflict lead from an ancient grudge hand led to new mutiny. This was most likely to put in to inform the audience this was a long lasting quarrel, not one that was recently brought up.
Luhrman’s interpretation gives the characters a first name in comparison to Shakespeare’s version witch just labelled the character with their surnames or their status. Luhrman would have done this to make the movie realistic and more up to date as in today’s modern society we called each other by their first names, not their status.
As the characters are introduced, the camera zooms in from behind the characters head to reveal them turning around and looking into the camera. A snapshot with the person’s title is given. I.e. Fulgencio Capulet, Juliet’s father in comparison to just lord Capulet. This is done to show the characters high importance and status.
The only characters not to be introduced this way are captain prince and Mercutio. This is probably to announce their difference in role. Captain Prince is just shown from the front, and Mercutio the same, but with one difference, Mercutio does still not have a first name. This was most likely to be introduce this way because Luhrman wanted to keep something’s the same, not complete change the whole original settings. He wanted to keep some originality which the audience would have like because modern society doesn’t always like a complete change, they like to have their little bit of home. It would be expected here that the rest of characters would be introduced such as Romeo and Juliet, the nurse and so on. This was made like this because Luhrman must have thought that the characters had no relevance in the movie at this stage. It was unexpected that Mercutio would have introduced at this stage because you would have thought that he would have come along with Romeo as they were best of friends.
In act three, scene one, Luhrman creates visual tension by firstly introducing the scene in a party situation where Mercutio and Tybalt are looking for Romeo. .Curiosity is created because the audience are wondering where he could be. There seems to be a slightly high profile conversation with lots of violence involved. The violence alone would have kept the viewer interested because they would want to see who wins. Mercutio plays around with Tybalt and shows off a lot by spinning his gun around in a skilful way. He also leaves an impression of ignorance which the audience would seem to like and be intrigued by it because they would want to know what he was really like.
There is a point in the movie where Mercutio fires a bullet for fun. Everyone stops and looks at him as if to say he has over stepped the line. This would have shocked the audience as this would not have been expected the characters let alone the audience. That moment would have created a lot of suspense.
While on the beat, the Montague’s arch rivals appear. There is a perceived image of danger and importance. Mercutio argues with them also makes fun out of them. One of the Montague’s say something to Mercutio that really makes him mad, and goes after the Capulet. An image of humour may be sent to the audience when a scene almost identical to a cowboy film is shown where Mercutio and one of the Capulet’s are about to have a shoot out. Romeo steps in to intervene, during this scene; a vast tension is being built with a burning impatience and desire to see what happens. Luhrman did really well in building up that suspense.
Romeo offers a peace offering to the Capulet’s but it is turned away harshly. By making the refusal seem harsh, it makes the audience feel sorry for Romeo, bringing along that them of despair and hope. Romeo walks away but is chases again by the Capulet, and is being beaten. Mercutio steps in to defend Romeo because he was rather angered by the Capulet actions. Romeo stops Mercutio from killing the Capulet but in the process Mercutio is hit back and is injured badly but it is unknown. The audience would have felt unsure about what had happened to Mercutio as he was hit but did not die straight away. He joked again giving the impression that he was ok but then he suddenly dropped to the ground dead. During this scene, they audience would have felt saddened by these inhuman actions, modern society enjoys violence and death, but not when it is a over silly thing or for the sake of good.
In conclusion of the original question, “How has Baz Luhrman used film techniques to create a visually exciting film?” the answer is that he used many techniques. Mainly, he used the technique of constantly keeping the audience in suspense, keeping them curious, using high quality sound effects, using many different formats of images, creating scenes of violence, conflict, despair, war and death and visually astounding text and emotion to help create that overall exciting film. After all, in today’s modern society is used to seeing this and enjoys this type of viewing. Some may have even found the film rather entertaining as some of modern society is being brought up in this environment.