In the 1998 production of Romeo and Juliet Baz Luhrmann has caught the attention of the audience from the very beginning of the film. A television screen, media on media; the television screen comes closer and closer towards the viewer; it strikes your attention like a news flash normally would catch one person’s eye. The news flash is of a lady (news reporter) saying the prologue. The picture in a little news box with a ring and a dagger in the middle of it, this is iconography so we know straight away this is going to be a love tragedy. This is a clever effect showing that the ring represents love and marriage and the dagger represents hate and storm; we therefore can guess that this is what the story will be about.Order now
The prologue is said once again with a powerful and deep voice over reminding one somewhat of a trailer, this makes the viewer look forward for more action, there are gun shots and fighting, and by this we can tell there is war. It reminded me of an action packed James Bond movie! Helicopters are then captured which show seriousness because they are filmed and captured at a fast rate, there are policemen in them with megaphones which only happens when a large crime is committed. Baz Luhrman portrays a world of wealth, wildness, of guns and violence when he shows the two tall towers with each of the family’s surname on them. There are head lines flashing up on the screen of the two families arguing, the prologue once again comes up on the screen but in block capitals quickly flashing white on black. Mug shots of both sides of the family come up on the screen and the camera pauses to show us who each of them are.
You can see a birds eye view of the city and there is a quick zoom through all the buildings in the street and it stops suddenly around a grand statue of Jesus and a gothic/horror music is played which I think shows that religion is an important part of the story and their lives. With the two tall towers one Montague and the other Capulet the camera zooms in on one tower and then out and then zooms in on the other tower and zooms out and then pictures them together. They are big tall and show that there is a lot of power and wealth in both of the families. More helicopters appear and a bird’s eye view of the city is shot so we get an idea of the busy life. It also represents the feeling of violence and danger.
There is music in the background most of the time. Suddenly the viewers see a lot of traffic and a loud song shouting ‘the boys the boys’ comes on, there is a quick zoom into the registration plate of a bold yellow, open top truck saying ‘Montague’s 005’. A line comes up on the screen saying ‘The Montague boys’ they have bold coloured Hawaii shirts on showing the feeling of heat, the loud music they play portrays their personalities. They seem boisterous, loud and ‘lairy’.
They pull up into a petrol station and some religious nuns cross their path and they are very disrespectful which shows they are not really religious. They are very immature.
A midnight blue, ferocious fast car with the number plate ‘Caps 005’. It stops and out gets Tybalt, at this point Benvolio is in the toilet. The car grabs our attention enough but then we see these western metal heeled boots, and hear the noise they make as he walks lets us know that this is not the right guy to mess with and Tybalt has already created a macho ‘scary’ character for himself. He steps and twists his boots on the wooden match and it crumbles to pieces and I thought that represented strength. The camera starts from his shoes and works his way up so we can see exactly what he is wearing. He has a very Latino look, he is dark and very mysterious looking, he’s wearing a black waist coat with a very big red picture of Jesus, they way he is dressed reminds me of the mafia, dark, religious, sinful and unemotional… The music changes and it was very western. Baz Luhrman has made it so that their clothes, the way they speak and the music that is played portrays each family’s personalities and they create the atmosphere. The Capulets have a muscular look and very stereotypical ‘bad guy’ outfits on.
I think Baz has made the two families look and act differently to make them very different and divided and have nothing in common with each other. As if they have nothing at all in common, they are worst enemies. Abram gets out of the car and growls, his teeth made of expensive platinum and has Sin engraved on them ad he says ‘Peace, I hate the word’ this shows he is hard, masculine. He then says ‘boo’ and starts laughing, as if boo would scare the Montagues’! There is a lot of slapstick comedy through out the beginning, I think Luhrmann has used humour to break up the intensity, the old lady in the back of the car is hitting one of the Montagues with her hand bag and he sitting there taking it and suddenly bursts and gets his gun out.
The fighting starts and they pull out huge golden guns. The film pauses as the camera zooms in to state the name of the gun which is named ‘long sword’, once again Luhrmann has used humour, making the film more modern by replacing real life long swords with 20th century hand pistols he has stuck to the original Shakespeare script where the words ‘long swords’ are used but taking it to a further extreme. The guns are big and at this point they are shooting and this grabs our attention again. The camera slows down to show the tension between Tybalt and Benvolio, close ups are effective because it causes tension and both characters are shown equally. Tybalt takes a shot and the bullet ricochets and hits the petrol station sign ‘Add more fuel to your fire’ I think this grabbed our attention because the set of the petrol station is very effective, it gives us the idea or feeling of flammable which may being trying to represent their emotions towards either side. It makes more tension, drama and a sense of danger to the viewers.
As the Montagues leave, Tybalt in an old fashioned way quickly gets down on both knees and is praying with both hands together. He opens up his jacket and the horror movie music comes on and a close up of Jesus on his waistcoat is shown, and like in an old movie he reaches for his gun, kisses it and aims for the Montagues we then see a target pointing to them, this makes the effect of an assassination like the famous public killing of J.F Kennedy maybe. He then, in a petrol station, throws his cigarette out of his mouth which is a bad idea and he starts a fire, the music then comes on again as the whole petrol station is burning. We then see a poster on the wall being burnt saying ‘Montagues Vs Capulets’. This shows that this is real war. We see rage, the whole city getting involved, helicopters, the viewers begin to feel this tension and feel part of what is going on. Baz Luhrman grabs the audiences’ attention by using a different contrast of music and linking the different genres in to characterisation. We can tell that these boys have power and they must be well known for their hatred towards each other if there are posters on the wall. The fire shows how their hatred burns and they are then stopped by the police and asked to put their long swords down.
Baz Luhrman has used few Shakespeare words and has made this interpretation more of a modern one, more action packed, exciting and enjoyable for today’s audience. His colourful and exciting version of a classic love tragedy with its fast editing and special effects has successfully brought us in to the 20th century.