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How does Baz Luhrmann use film techniques to make Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" more accessible to a younger audience, despite retaining the original Shakespearean language?

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Charlotte Swain 9P Monday 16th June English Coursework - Rough Draft GCSE Media Assignment June/July 2003 How does Baz Luhrmann use film techniques to make Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" more accessible to a younger audience, despite retaining the original Shakespearean language? Romeo and Juliet released in London around 1595 was one of two major tragedy plays written by Sir William Shakespeare often thought to be the greatest dramatist this world has ever known, proven by the fact that the story of his victimised, star crossed lovers still lives on in the hearts of people today. In 1997, over four hundred years later, a new, fresh and innovative director called Baz Luhrmann re - released Shakespeare's ancient tale of ominous love with an aim to make it more accessible to a younger 20th century audience - he succeeded. Luhrmann wanted to retain the original Shakespearean diction as not to lose the plays infamous, poetic flare, yet change and exaggerate other ideas rendering it more enticing for a younger generation previously steered away by not only the complex dialect but also the 16th century sets, confusing staging and odd costume. Luhrmann eliminates any initial confusion as to the roles of each character and their relationships towards each other with much needed editing, introducing the main characters in the credits of the opening scenes. He also takes the audience away from the archaic titles used by Shakespeare of Lord and Lady Capulet/Montague and adopts a more contemporary style risking naming the renowned Shakespearean characters with modern day identities such as Ted and Caroline Montague, mother and father of Romeo arch rivals of Juliet's own stern parents Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet. Luhrmann also introduces us to other important characters from the play such as Benvolio Montague - Romeo's cousin, Mercutio - his best friend, Captain Prince - the chief of police, Tybalt Capulet - Prince of Cats and the rich, successful Paris, proposed husband in Juliet's arranged marriage. ...read more.


between the households as to who is righteous in the eyes of God - therefore both families, yet the Capulets in particular, are urged by their degenerate religious beliefs to defeat the other household. To voice his opinion and make it more understandable to younger people Luhrmann used a great deal of religious imagery throughout the film but with a certain twisted, novel delivery. The most conspicuous religious imagery used has to be the large statue of Christ with out stretched arms between the Capulet and Montague skyscrapers. It shows intense Catholicism and the extended arms symbolize peace with the statue as a reminder of religious ethics, appealing for peace between the families. It is the Capulets more than the Montagues that Luhrmann has chosen to show as the most extravagantly religious followers of the two families, probably due to the fact they seem of a higher class and are much more socially conscious. For example, the crosses shaved into the heads of the Capulet kinsmen, 'sin' engraved on Abra's (a Capulet) metal mouth guard, the ostentatiousness of the Capulet tomb with large neon crosses, adorned in rose petals and the over ornate candles and cherubs all show on over exaggerated religious mania which the Capulets seem to have. Juliet's bedroom is also extremely over garnished with candles, angles and a shrine to the Virgin Mary as a further prompt to show the Capulet's obsession with their religious stance. Religious issues are intertwined with the antagonism and strife between the families especially from the Capulet point of view as Luhrmann reflects self-images of the Capulets as seeing themselves the righteous ones whom are pushed on by the will of God to defeat the Montagues - the ultimate sinners. The friar (a herbalist and priest) the man who marries the two lovers has an eccentric tattoo of the crucifix on his back, showing clearly and easily that he is a holy man who wants the feud to end, therefore his reasons in helping Romeo and Juliet to secretly elope. ...read more.


Aerial shots show all the characters in the scene at that time such as when Mercutio is killed, the aerial shot helps evaluate the situation for the audience and acclimatizes the importance of this scene to the plot. The final aerial shot of the altar and the centrepiece bed at the Capulet tomb shows the dead lovers after both committing suicide surrounding by candles and religious adornment. Finally, a comment needs to be made on the evident adaptations to the delivery of the prologue and various other reports and speeches throughout the film, making it more inviting to a younger audience who would easily bore of a storyteller clarifying the events. At the beginning of the play the prologue is delivered not by an actor at the side of the screen but via a CNN news report retelling the drastic tale of the two star crossed lovers. At other various points in the play T.V broadcasting is used to replace and eliminate the need for a narrator such as the advertisement for the Capulet banquet, done on a chat show and the coverage of the civil brawls which Romeo is informed of through a news report rather than a messenger such as in the play. Other persuasive advertising is done via newspapers and magazines like the Capulet industry promotions and front-page covers of the 'gallant' Paris to show his excessive wealth. To conclude the film the speech at the end of the play reverts to the same news reporter setting the scene at the beginning as if the whole story has been one long news coverage, again drawing on modern conventions and proving that throughout Luhrmann has been able to engage a younger audience whether it be by staging, delivery, imagery, symbolism, camera techniques and props from beginning to end of his production. The final statement is no exception, finishing the film in exactly the same way as it archaically pronounces, yet with a touch of modernism declares, 'For never has there been a story of more woe, than that of Juliet and her Romeo.' By Charlotte Swain ...read more.

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