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How has Baz Luhrmann made ‘Romeo and Juliet’ accessible and interesting for a young contemporary audience?

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Introduction

How has Baz Luhrmann made 'Romeo and Juliet' accessible and interesting for a young contemporary audience? Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy set in Verona in Elizabethan times. Two families, the Montague's and the Capulet's, both noble households, continue their ancient feud, the play starting with a small skirmish in the town centre. However when some young Montagues gatecrash a Capulet party, dishonouring their enemy, Romeo meets Juliet, and the next day they secretly marry. Tybault, Juliet's cousin, goes looking for Romeo, seeking revenge for the damaged pride Old Capulet had suffered, and when Romeo arrives on the scene, Tybault offers a duel to him, which fatefully ends in Mercutio, Romeo's best friend's, death. Romeo then continues to kill Tybault and is exiled to Mantua. By her father's will, Juliet is bound to marrying Parris, a noble friend of the family. A plot is hatched to fake Juliet's death and Romeo should carry her away to Mantua. However a mix up leaves Romeo in the dark, and as he arrives on the scene to find Juliet apparently dead, he poisons himself. In his dieing moments, Juliet awakens, and she too commits suicide. In this story, fate and destiny play large parts, ending in an agreement between the two households to end their feud. In the script there is quite a lot of wordplay between the characters, for instance the first scene dialog about coals. Shakespeare also mixes use of prose, rhyme and iambic pentameter. For example when speaking about Rosaline, his love, Romeo uses a poetic rhyming verse, whereas in Act one Scene two Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets to show comedy, and also parodies the eloquent ornate prose used by people in the sixteenth century. Shakespeare would entertain his audience using different language and verse to show different moods whether it be comedy, romance or desperation. Baz Luhrmann, then a little known director, has taken this 16th century text and transformed it into a dazzling and accessible film aimed at the young, contemporary audience of today but how has he done this? ...read more.

Middle

During the prologue mainly, Luhrmann creates a sense of narrative progression from the fast moving montage of images, even though they are not necessarily in chronological order in the script. He does this using editing, changing speeds of edits from one scene to the next, and also anchoring each image to a voice over. Also in the prologue, and throughout the film there is intertextuality. For example I think the still images in the prologue showing the Capulets and the Montagues along with a piece of text introducing them, relates to the television series Dallas. This shows early on, in case you haven't already caught on, that the film is very contemporary. One other way of using of intertextuality is the use of different genres in the film. For instance the western genre is used extensively in the first scene. The whistling wind when Tybault speaks and the way his metal-heeled boots clink on the ground, as well as the squeaking petrol station sign, all have strong connotations of the western genre. Another genre used in the first scene is action. Explosions, guns and special effects all show this. There are also comedy aspects throughout the film. The two Montague boys other than Benvolio joke continuously throughout the film, and in the first scene, are almost slapstick in their movements. For instance one of them falls backwards into the car, and the way he handles the lady hitting him over the head with a handbag. There are several ways in which the director has added realism. Firstly he uses women actors. In Shakespeare's time young boys whose voices had not broken played all women characters. Another way of increasing the realism in the film is the use of sound bridges. These are sounds that 'bridge' two or more shots together. This happens in real life so increases realism. In Shakespeare's time you heard what you saw all of the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is to do with making the film 'public friendly'. Romeo is made out in the film to be the good guy, whereas in the script he is more neutral. Having Romeo murder an innocent man is supposed to show desperation. However in today's society, killing a man is a very serious crime and would not make Romeo a popular hero. Instead the director chose to have Romeo take a hostage, showing the same amount of desperation. The only person Romeo is shown to kill in the film is Tybault, who is portrayed as the evil character. Also Romeo killed Tybault in blind rage at Mercutio's death, which partly justifies it, especially in the viewer's eyes. In the film, Samson and Gregory are the Montague Boys, whereas in the original text, they are servants of the house of Capulet. Likewise Abra, Abraham in the script, and Balthasar, unnamed, are Capulets whereas in the script they are Montagues. This makes no difference to the plot, but the way Luhrmann has arranged it works excellently, without changing the plot at all. Abra is named what he is instead of Abraham in the film, because in America Abraham is recognised as a Jewish name, whereas Abra has the accent, and appearance of a South American man. Baz Luhrmann uses both diegetic and non-diegetic music in the film, to give a sense of the emotion of the scene. For instance the non-diegetic music in act two scene two where Romeo and Juliet are in the pool shows the romance, and the diegetic music in act one scene five from the female singer and piano again shows the romance. Another mood shown by diegetic music is in Act two scene one of the film, where The Montague boys are leaving the party. They are singing with the car stereo 'We are a pretty piece of flesh'. This shows they are in an aggressive, intimidating mood. So these are some of the many ways in which Baz Luhrmann has turned William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet into a contemporary film. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Guy Burton 10AS ...read more.

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