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How does Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of

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Introduction

How does Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" visually highlight Shakespeare's rich language and imagery? Shakespeare's use of language reflects the theatre of his day. There were no elaborate set designs, costumes, lighting or sound effects and there were also only a small number of actors playing many different parts. This could get confusing and therefore the language and imagery had to do all the work for the audience, as the words were the only tools available to help them imagine the scenes vividly. In the prologue of "Romeo and Juliet", line number twelve; "Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage" and the very last words; "our toil shall strive to mend", have significant meaning. These sentences, spoken by the chorus, highlight to the audience the key plot elements to come. It gives the audience an idea of what they are about to watch or read and makes the ensuing action more intelligible. This dramatic convention therefore acts almost like a movie trailer. In Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the play, the prologue begins with a long shot of a television (within a television), with a reporter speaking to us from inside of it. Behind the reporter's left shoulder are the words "star-crossed lovers" and a symbol of a broken ring. ...read more.

Middle

In addition, a police car which says "Verona Police" is filmed. All of these key points visually highlight Shakespeare's imagery and language. The police car is an indication of the violence to come that is caused by the feud and upsets the normal, peaceful status quo. The first six lines of the prologue are essentially the most important in establishing the plot - for example lines three and four from the prologue: "from ancient grudge break to new mutiny" and "where civil blood makes civil hands unclean". Luhrmann usually emphasises these points with newspaper headlines shown in the movie with those exact sentences on them. These lines of the prologue are also heard as the voice-over of the Friar. Jump cutting is used to move from headline to headline and the newspapers are shot in extreme close up, surrounded by flames of fire. With each sentence of the prologue that is said, an accompanying image is shown on the screen with it. These include violent images such as police cars and police helicopters. Overall, expressive lighting is used in the film, to add even greater intensity to the conflict between peace and war in Verona. This, along with words such as "death", "rage" and "blood", really start to show the dark side of the plot and ironically contrasts with Verona being described as a "fair" city previously. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore what he does, with the opera music still playing, is show most of the prologue on the screen in writing. Jump cutting is used between each sentence, but it is barely readable since the editing is at such a high speed, so the prologue is literally flashing before your eyes. Afterwards, Baz Luhrmann shows snippets from the entire movie to the audience. Jump cutting is used and the images flash at a very high speed before you. He goes from the end to the beginning of the movie, and what he achieves is, in a sense, a visual prologue! At the very end of the prologue, the title "Romeo + Juliet" comes up and the 'plus' sign is actually made to suggest a Christian cross. This subtly reminds us of the religious side of the play. This includes the Friar, who is a religious personage, the wedding that Romeo and Juliet have and also the whole theme of destiny and some divinity or higher power looking over and controlling us in life. So in conclusion, this is how Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the prologue from "Romeo and Juliet" successfully visually highlights Shakespeare's rich language and imagery. We can see how he has gone through the prologue and then fairly systematically translated its deeper meaning, in remarkably creative ways. He effectively translates all the messages of the prologue in a contemporary and entertaining context. ...read more.

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