Romeo and Juliet was written by British Playwright William Shakespeare. It was written relatively early in Shakespeare illustrious career. Romeo and Juliet has stood the test of time and is now a testimony to Shakespeare’s memory. The moral issues and tribulations created in Romeo and Juliet are still apparent in today’s society. Baz Luhrmann saw this play as fertile ground to base his 1996 film of the same name. It can be argued that peoples expectations 600 years ago were a great deal lower than today. Directors did not have the access to the overabundance of special effects. Basic effects such as Stage lighting had yet been invented. All of these hindrances meant that the text had to completely involve the auidience. Shakesphere did this by using a variety of methods e.g in some plays he parioded the problems of the time e.g. in Macbeth Banquo, Macbeth’s friend was a direct descendent or James 1st for whom the play was written.
Shakespeare was unable to employ the cineamagraphic skills used by Baz Luhrmann. William Shakespeare had to rely on elaborate language to convey his messages whereas Baz Luhrmann had a plethora of special effects at his disposal. Lurhmann is able to use the progressiveness of technology to convey a mood change using sound effects also lighting can also change to suggest a new character is about to enter. After the chorus the play opens with talk by the Capulet servants about the quarrels with the Montagues. This indicates to the audience that there is underlying fission between these two powerful families.
Act 1 Scene 5 opens with the great hall of the Capulet house. Romeo is persuaded to go to the ball by Mercutio. The scenes leading up to Act 1 Scene5 show Romeo in a depression over Juliet’s cousin Rosaline.
Romeo does not go to the ball searching for love – the contrary is true, he is lovesick and does not expect to enjoy the ball at all. The moment that Romeo sees Juliet in the film they are separated by a Fish tank this is prefigurative of the struggle that they are to face also that is always some sort metaphorical barrier between them. The water represents wonderment; the feeling these two teenagers feel when they first gaze upon each other. This is a pivotal moment in the play and Shakespeare unable to use the cinematographic effects had to make sure the language captivated the audience; the language in this section is replete with epic imagery and antithesis. Romeo completely revises his views on love upon seeing Juliet his transition from lovelorn teenager to amazed man is swift and smooth and is powered by Juliet’s unrivalled beauty. To truly convey the way of Romeo has been “struck” with a metaphorical love bolt the scene is replete with imagery. “The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand, And touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.” This intricate language shows how Shakespeare was able to captivate his audience with little apart from his use of highly structured language.
Regular swipes are in Act 1 Scene 5. Romeo and Juliet will be together blissfully unaware of events happening around them then a swipe will occur with Tybalt, dressed in horns to signify a devil, noticing Romeo this is prefigurative as Tybalt is the one who even after his death manages to destroy the couple. The background music used when Romeo and Juliet are on screen fills us with stupefaction this is to denote their relationship. Plosives are used “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” to evoke an emotional response from the audience. Luhrmann is able to build upon this with sweeping camera views. Here hyperbole is used the language is resplendent with passion and eloquence. The mis-en-scene of Act 1 scene 5 is chosen with great care. Juliet is dressed as an angel to exemplify her angelic state with Romeo dressed as a knight in shining amour, come to take her away to live a happy life. Juliet’s father, Mr. Capulet is dressed as a Greek god to indicate his stubbornness perhaps. It is unlikely that Shakespeare had such a wide range of costumes to choose from when producing this play as Luhrmann had at his disposal.
Sonnets and rhyming couplets are used to give the writing depth and to vary the line length as are run on lines. Religious imagery runs the whole way through that conversation e.g. profane, holy shrine, sin, wrong, devotion, palmers, faith, despair, purged, trespass. Utilizing religious imagery would be a good way of connecting emotionally with the audience as in Shakespeare’s time as almost everyone was religious and believed in God.
Act 3 scene 5 shows Romeo and Juliet’s first morning together after consummating their marriage. Luhrmann cast a part in the scene where Romeo and Juliet are inside the sheets. The sheets represent their own little cocoon where they are safe but as with much of the play they are not allowed to enjoy their moment of ecstasy the fat nurse comes bouncing in and Romeo is forced to make a majestic leap into the swimming pool and not landing on the hard concrete 5Ft away. At this point Juliet is understandably upset however Mrs. Capulet interprets this as sadness for the newly departed Tybalt (he also landed in water perhaps a connection). “We will have vengeance for it”- “Where that same banished runagate doth live”-“Unaccustomed dram”. This is perfigurative of the fact that Romeo takes his own life with poison later on in the play. The imperitive verb “will” is clearly confrontational.
When Juliet refuses to marry Paris her father explodes to truly transmit the father’s anger Shakespeare instills the help of the metaphor. “Out, you green sickness-carrion! Out, you baggage! You, tallow-face” these expletives are terribly harsh. In the play we see Mrs. Capulet to be truly behind the father in the anger that they share in Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris however we see in Baz Luhrmann interpretation of the story we see the mother noticing Juliet’s point of view because perhaps she was forced into marriage with an older man yet her mothers leniency cannot help her when she feels the full force of her fathers rage. Close ups of Mr. Capulet allow the audience to feel the full force of his rage an advantage Mr. Shakespeare would not have had at his disposal.
The Actions of Mr. Capulet in the film lead you believe that he is not the honorable man portrayed in the text. Beatings of his wife and grabbing his daughter violently are not shown in the original text thus Lurhmann adds additional layers of meaning by the virtue of his direction.
To conclude Baz Luhrmann film can only be hailed as a success. It not only includes almost all of the text, thing which many modern book based films fail to do but is able to build upon that with the use of special effects and camera angles. While Shakespeare exceeded expectation 400 years ago Luhrmann has succeeded in achieving the same thing now