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Does the Baz Luhrman film of Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet obscure or illuminate the text?

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Introduction

Does the Baz Luhrman film of Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet obscure or illuminate the text? Alex Langley In my essay I will set out to consider whether Mr Luhrmans masterpiece obscures or illuminates the original text of Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet. In 1992, film director Baz Luhrman set out to construct a modern day version of Romeo and Juliet. The blockbuster was set in modern day Mexico City. Luhrman used this urban setting as the original setting, Verona. The setting is proposed to remind viewers of a characteristic American city such as LA. His aim was to establish a new audience to the excitements of Shakespeare by using a blend of dazzling imagery, music and action. Luhrman also uses a variety of professional techniques such as Montage and Juxtaposition. "Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona where we lay our scene." The design of Shakespeare's prologue is to acquaint the audience to the characters. In Luhrmans opening, the prologue is illustrated with media imagery. I feel this works well because it ties in with modern life. Luhrman also uses rapid cutting clips to draw in an action thrilled audience. It keeps the audience thrilled because of its prompt energetic movement. Another technique used is repeating language to help the audience acclimatise to it. I feel this is and admirable idea because the most off-putting aspect of Shakespeare is often the language and by duplicating it, it gives the audience more chance of understanding it. ...read more.

Middle

The Meeting of Romeo and Juliet is composed by Mr Luhrman in such an elegant style, using the fish tank as another masterpiece of imagery. The tank itself is symbolic, as it is full of astonishing fish that are trapped in the same way that Romeo and Juliet are trapped in their family's conflict. To an uneducated viewer, Friar Lawrence's decision to marry two young people who have only been acquainted for a limited number of hours seems irresponsible and illogical, though Mr Luhrman shows his reasons in an understandable way. Luhrman illuminates this moment by developing a montage of images, of the fire and violence between the two families. This permits the audience to see the reasons behind Friar Lawrence's actions and shows that he agrees to marry the youths as a bond to cease the hostility between the two families. This montage of images clarify s Shakespeare text by showing Friar Lawrence's thoughts in an obvious way, if this were not to happen then various viewers may not comprehend his reasons and find it irrational. In Act 3 Scene 1, Luhrman cunningly uses Juxtaposition to alter from a scene showing Juliet's contentment juxtaposed with Romeo's difference with Tybalt. Some would argue that this technique distorts Shakespeare's text by cutting between two separate scenes, though in his defence, Mr Luhrman claims that "this technique adds dramatic irony as the audience is able to see the events that will destroy Juliet's happiness. " I personally consider that this technique work well because it is swift and dramatic and it enlightens the fact that these events will devastate the contentment of Romeo and Juliet. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the text of the play, it states that Romeo dies before Juliet awakes. In Luhrmans film, it shows Juliet awakening as Romeo drinks the poison. This change in the story does obscure the text though it is cleverly used to create a dramatic ending. I feel it did not obscure the text too dramatically and I believe that a play should be open to interpretation, within reason. "I will raise her statue in pure gold" As the play comes to a close, there is a glimmer of hope and peace as the families promise to end their conflict. Luhrman, on the other hand cuts this optimistic ending and opts for a negative ending. "all are punished!" I do not agree with the way Luhrman has ended this and would opt for a more positive ending to put a more positive spin on Romeo and Juliet's love. Instead I feel Luhrman has made their love feel negative and downbeat. I think Luhrman gave the film a negative ending to dramatically improve the ending and to have a twist at the end than having the same old happy ending. I though Baz Luhrman had succeeded in a seemingly impossible task of modernising Romeo and Juliet. I feel he did the best he could under the circumstances although on occasions it did obscure the text. I feel 75% of the film worked, while the other 25% slightly obscured the text. I feel using techniques such as repeating 13th Century text, imagery of water and imagery of fire worked well with the play and overall I feel Luhrman did a marvellous job. I exceedingly enjoyed the film. ...read more.

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