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Media essay on Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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Introduction

Media essay on Baz Luhrmanns adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' Baz Luhrmann has used a vast array of media techniques to attract a modern audience to his film adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'. The opening of the film features a 20th century television news report. Luhrmann has chosen to cast a black American female newsreader, contradicting our expectations of a white English cast throughout. We get a very different cast from the one we would predict; Romeo and Juliet are white, as we would have thought, but with American accents. There are some surprising choices from the casting department. Mercutio, Romeo's best friend, is black and acts like a typical 20th century young black male. The casting of the Capulet gang is interesting; they are all Hispanic in appearance and unpleasant in character. Tybalt in particular is named as 'the prince of cats' and has an overpowering air about him. Tybalt's role appears to have been paired with that of Benvolio, as they are the most prominent members of their families. The Montague's are all cast as distinctly white Americans; this diversity in casting seems to reflect our modern multicultural society. ...read more.

Middle

Watched without the music the film appears much longer and far less dramatic. To set the scene in such a busy urban area brings more attention to their violence; highlighting how central the feud is to Verona. The Capulets are clearly geared up to fight. They appear to have been well trained with muscular physiques and great skill in the handling of weaponry. They dress like gangsters, with their sly appearance. The expensive looking suits turn back to reveal either tight tops featuring religious images or shirts. Their formal dress gives them an air of suave sophistication, which the Montagues lack. The Montagues are far too casual to match up to the dangerous image presented by the Capulets. They wear Hawaiian shirts, one even unbuttoned to reveal bare chest. They have more rebellious styles of hair; pink, shaved and bleached. Luhrmann uses the images of the families to make one appear submissive and docile while the other is unscrupulous and aggressive. The Capulet's have quite clearly been portrayed as the 'baddies' of the story. There are changes in music constantly throughout the introduction and opening scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

Their only violence is their pistols. The sides appear to be fighting over who remains at the fuel station. This seems to suddenly represent possession of Verona; the side that is forced to leave the fuel station will be the losers of the battle. The Capulets therefore take the fact that they remain, as a sign of victory. Tybalt takes his parting shot at the fleeing Montagues before standing, triumphantly flicking a match at the pool of petrol surrounding Benvolio. The final and most determined Montague departs, signalling the end of the fight. At last, as the fuel station bursts into flames, the music from the introduction returns, creeping back with a crescendo on the violins. This indicates that a dramatic event has taken place. Another major change to the conventional ideas of Romeo and Juliet is the length of the film. Though the language sticks to Shakespeare's original wording, chunks of text are cut out where they are seen as unnecessary or surplus to the plot. Had every word been included in the film, it would have been far longer and could risk boring the audience. Luhrmann has succeeded in producing a popular and successful adaptation of Shakespeare's timeless play. He has managed to attract a younger audience, boosting box office sales. ...read more.

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