Romeo and Juliet is a play written by William Shakespeare in 1595. Later Baz Luhrham produced the film in 1997. The play is about two families, the Capulets and the Montagues. The two families are very different and dislike each other. We then meet two teenage children, Romeo – a Montague and Juliet – a Capulet. Romeo and Juliet meet at a party and fall in love at first sight. They decide to get married disobeying both their parents. Juliet’s parents are marrying her to Paris the next day, so Juliet drinks a sleeping potion. Romeo thinks she is dead as does everyone else, and kills himself. Juliet wakes up to Romeo lying next to her dead, she then kills herself.
Shakespeare’s play and Baz Luhrman’s film have the same messages and feelings of love being more powerful than prejudice, rules and hatred. This comes across at many different points in Romeo and Juliet. The emotion of love at first sight is very strong and significant. An example of this is shown when Romeo declares his sudden affection for Juliet. After seeing her, in Act 1 Scene 5, he forgets all about his apparent love for Rosaline. Hatred comes across in both the film and the play, although it comes across much stronger and obvious in the film. Baz Luhrman uses hatred and violence all throughout the play. He almost evolves the film around violence, fighting and arguments. I think Luhrman does this to attract a wider range of people of different age groups and with different interests. Prejudice also plays a part in the play and film; this is shown by the arguments between the two families, The Montague’s and The Capulet’s. The two families have been fighting for years and therefore they expected their children to stay away from one another. Juliet is so in love with Romeo that she is prepared to give up her family name for him, so that they could be together for example, ‘if he be married.
My grave is like my wedding bed’. However, she doesn’t think through the consequences that her father told her when she decided that she didn’t want to marry Paris. Juliet’s family arranged her to marry him because of Paris’ wealth and status. Juliet did not want to go through with the marriage because she did not love Paris and did not want a bigamist marriage as she was already married to Romeo. Juliet felt that she could not tell her parents about Romeo as she would be in big trouble, we know this because of how Juliet’s father acted when she told him she did not want to marry Paris. Shakespeare and Luhrman both used rules made by the Prince, which stated that if either of the families fight again the person who started the fight would be killed. Revenge is also used in the play and film, although it is used and shown more in the film.
There are many differences between the Elizabethan theatre and a film. The Elizabethan theatre was a performance in an open-air stage. There was standing space for most people and a seating area for the more wealthy visitors. The performance would be at around noon and would be shown in broad daylight, there were no special lighting or effects to help the actors. Males played all parts; females were not allowed to act in the Elizabethan theatre even if this meant two men kissing, at this time people would have not thought this of being abnormal. The costumes were simple and without any lighting, sound, or special effects the language was very important.
The Elizabethan audience referred to going to hear the play rather than see it, emphasising that the theatre was an oral rather than visual experience. Also the visitors did not have to sit or stand in silence and watch the show as we do now when watching films. The theatre was more of a meeting place where people were free to eat, drink, meet up, chat and even join in with the production. It is very different with a modern film and audience. The actors are male and female, have believable costumes, many special effects and lighting. This makes films seem much more believable. Although a modern audience expects it to be believable and would argue if it didn’t, in the Elizabethan theatre the audience expected no more than a few actors stood on stage speaking. Also nowadays the director picks certain actors and actresses, maybe for their looks, popularity or talent.
Shakespeare’s purpose of writing the play was to entertain people and of course to make money. Luhrman’s purpose of the film was to answer the question ‘if Shakespeare were alive today, how would he make a film?’ He also wanted to let teenagers know who Shakespeare was, and let them no that Shakespeare’s play’s aren’t just chores that have to be studied at school.
Act 1 scene 5 is set at the Capulet’s party. Romeo sneaks in because he thinks his ‘true love’ Rosaline is going to be there. Romeo and Juliet meet through a fish tank separating the ladies and gentlemen’s toilets. Juliet is then introduced to Paris, her future husband, although Romeo and Juliet cannot keep their eyes off each other. Romeo now forgets all about Rosaline and says he is in love with Juliet for example, “did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight, for I ne’er saw true beauty till this night”. This makes me feel as if Romeo doesn’t really know what love is and isn’t being serious. Although we are still convinced that there love for each other is real. This is because of the language they use, music, location, their facial expressions and even their clothing. We also notice a difference in the way Romeo describes Rosaline and Juliet, for example, his use of religious imagery describes Juliet as a holy shrine and indicates a move towards a more spiritual consideration of love.
Romeo and Juliet is set in the gangs and gun culture of Verona beach. It was filmed in Mexico City. Baz Luhrman picked Mexico City because it could have represented anywhere in the world. It also looks realistic and is a religious city. Act 1 scene 5 is set at the Capulet’s house, where they are having a party. From seeing the house we can already tell a lot about them. The house is huge, modern and full of gold expensive objects. By this we can see that they must be a very wealthy family. There is loud music and disco lights. Then the setting changes into the toilets. There is a fish tank separating the toilets. Romeo and Juliet are on either side and then spot each other. We then are taken back into the party, where they meet for the first time and kiss.
Baz Luhrman picked a good choice of actors and actresses for his adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Leonardo DiCaprio played the part of Romeo. Luhrman picked him because he had already been in films before so he was familiar and obviously had some fans that would go and see the film because he was in it. He is also very confident and very good-looking. These things always attract more people to see the film, especially teenagers. Claire Danes played the part of Juliet. She was not very well known before the film but was picked as she had a familiar face and had ‘the girl next door’ look about her.
She was attractive but not as a Hollywood star looks like. I think Luhrman picked her because of her having a familiar face, it could remind the audience of someone they know. Also because Luhrman felt that teenagers could relate to her. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet) look good together and look like a good couple. This makes the story line easier to believe and more romantic. They are also very convincing and make the story believable. The Capulets were all picked because they were tall and looked strong. The Montagues had a younger look and were all quite small. Luhrman chose to do this because it was easier for the audience to notice that the Capulets were the rich and posh ones and the Montagues were quite poor.
The music was very important in Romeo and Juliet. It fitted in well with the story line and the acting. They used slow music for romantic scenes and fast music for action scenes. The music helps to add to the atmosphere. The music attracts more teenagers to the film, as it was modern music liked by teenagers. In act 1 scene 5 there was very fast loud disco music as there was a party, once we had entered the toilet there is slow, romantic music as it is when Romeo and Juliet first meet. It is clever how Baz Luhrman uses music in the film and how it affects the way we feel.