Concentrating on the presentation of character, setting and sound; examine what seems to you to be the most significant features of the Baz Luhrmann films you have studied. You should:
* Consider the nature of Baz Luhrmann as a director, his aims and intentions.
* Through an analysis of the opening scene of his text, Romeo and Juliet, consider how successful he is in achieving his goalsOrder now
* Move on to contrast this with Franco Zeffirelli’s text.
* Review Lurhmann’s techniques by examining his ideas in the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’ in the light of what you know him as a director.
* In your opinion, say how successful these directors have been by commenting on the texts you have studied
Baz Luhrmann has been a director of many successful films so far but the ones we have studied, and the ones I will be using in this assignment are ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and fundamentally, ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Before Baz Luhrmann began making the film, Romeo and Juliet, there were many things he had to think about and consider. His main aim was to not copy the original Shakespeare text, but change it enough just to make it a bit more modern. He wanted to update it to a 20th century style of film so it would appeal to more people today, especially a younger audience. A basic way of putting this would be to say he wanted to not change Shakespeare, but just allowing access to it; as to say he wanted to change certain things but keep the main story the same; where as Zeffirelli did not do this, he kept the same vision as Shakespeare initially would have but he was more original with camera work.
For Luhrmann to change the film from the play in this way he had to keep certain things the same or, at least, similar. An example is the weaponry used. In his version, guns are used but they have brand names such as rapier, dagger and sword so there is still a connection to the original Shakespeare. This shows what he aimed to do and what he had to consider. When making this film Luhrmann posed the question “How would Shakespeare make this movie if he was alive today?” This explains what I have been talking about.
Other things Luhrmann kept the same in the movie, which can be noticed from the first scene, are the language the characters used. This is actually the English of the time and the reason he left this was because if he decided to change it, the film would lose the idea that it is supposed to be a re-make of a Shakespeare play.
Although the setting of the film was set in Verona the opening scene of the film was actually filmed in Mexico. The filming crew decided that they wanted to find a generic cityscape that was not well known so after touring around they found a gas station in Mexico city that seemed perfect. Luhrmann immediately decided that this could be where the two rival gangs meet as the setting was very modern and it would match Luhrmann’s intentions of making the film seem to be staged in the 20th century. This scene was vital for the remainder of the film because if you were not going to enjoy this scene, you were not going to enjoy the rest of the film so it had to be made as exciting as possible. The gun fighting and comedy helped this to be possible. Ironically, this is exactly what Shakespeare’s audience enjoyed too so this shows why he decided to keep some things like this the same
The vision in this scene of the characters in particular; matches the image we get of them when we read the text. After writing the text for the play, Luhrmann had to think about what the characters are going to be like and how he was going to support the text with the visuals, as in costumes. The Capulets are dressed in Latino style clothing except for Tybalt, who is in-fact wearing dark, plain clothing. This is so because he is the ‘King of Cats’ but also because he has a more ‘evil’ side than the rest of his Capulets, as he hates the word peace. Therefore, as Luhrmann would have thought, a darker costume would, therefore, have suited him better. The Montagues however, are dressed in bright clothing. This is significant because we know that the Montagues and Capulets are rivals, but this is shown by the contrast in their appearance.
Generally, Luhrmann’s attempt to make the play similar, but updated is successful. The first impressions we get when watching it is that this is definitely a film based on the modern day. To find out it is a Shakespeare play however, it isn’t exactly obvious, you will just have to know that Romeo and Juliet was originally a Shakespeare text as the, language cannot tell us exactly. However, if you do know where the play comes from, you are easily aware that it is a newer version of the Shakespeare text; not just a completely new movie.
One of the main factors when making a movie in terms of presentation is the sound. In every single scene there will be at least 5 tracks of sound playing over each other at any one time. For example…in the scene where Romeo and Juliet are in the swimming pool there are 4 tracks playing, with just 2 people talking. There are the background sounds of crickets, the wind blowing, the ripples and sound of the water, and most importantly, the sounds of the two people talking. This makes you think how much work it would have taken to make the first scene with all the gun fighting, and car effects, and the characters shouting and people talking and screaming in the background etc. Luhrmann made this relevant to his fundamental task by obviously making the background sounds sound modern, cars running etc instead of horses; as in the older days.
Franco Zeffirelli also made another version of Romeo and Juliet, again wanting to make it more modern, but he didn’t modernize it quite as much as Luhrmann did. He used older style costumes, such as cloaks, and the characters generally act in a different way. For example, when the Capulet reacts to the Montague biting his thumb at him; he says ‘do you bite your thumb at us sir?’ in a much calmer way then what he does in the Luhrmann version. (The difference here is the aggression between the two gangs. Although they are still rivals, they show it in different ways).
A difference that can be noted in the first scene to show the difference in these two versions is when the Prince enters. In the Luhrmann version, he enters in a helicopter, using a megaphone etc. where as in the Zeffirelli version; he enters on horses, with trumpets and a fanfare. You can see from this example alone, the difference the two different plays show in forms of time. It shows that they both want to make the film for the 20th century audiences but Luhrmann is setting the film in the 20th century where as Zeffirelli is setting it in older days.
Zeffirelli uses the same language, however, as Luhrmann. This is shown by the characters speaking in the movie but again, it is a thing that you can be made clear with in the all-important first scene. This is for the same reason as what Luhrmann did it; this is going to be a Shakespeare play and to make this so, you have to keep the language the same as it reflects upon the time of Shakespeare although you can still make a modern style film even by using this language.
Another film we have studied by Baz Luhrmann is Strictly Ballroom – unlike from Romeo and Juliet in many ways; mainly because this is actually originally a Baz Luhrmann production, not like Romeo and Juliet, which was originally a Shakespearean text. Strictly Ballroom is, again, a modern day film based mainly on a dancing competition. It differs from Romeo and Juliet for this reason; for example, normal day language is used. It is difficult to see what his idea were when making this film as it is just a modern day film about people who contest to win a dancing competition.
I think both of these directors have been successful in their own different ways Both have made ‘copies’ of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and we can see they both take a different approach to it, they are both aiming for the same thing, but in different ways. Where as Luhrmann prefers the modern style, Zeffirelly prefers the old, when-it-was-made style. Although these two films look extremely different when watching them, the texts they use are very similar, if not the same, which shows they are similar ideas, as we know.
Personally out of the two, I think that Luhrmann’s version has been the biggest success. When Zeffirelli made his film, there isn’t much change; it still seems the exact same Shakespeare play, which would not appeal to many people, including me. However, Luhrmann has taken the Shakespeare version and changed it in his own way (remember: allowing access) and made a different kind of film but still base on the same story. He has in fact, made the film (especially the first scene) quite enjoyable and fun to watch. One of the biggest factors of this is the comedy that was included in the first scene, which Zeffirelli failed to provide us with.