Discuss the effectiveness of the transformation of the Desert Scene from text to screen.
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Discuss the effectiveness of the transformation of the Desert Scene from text to screen. Baz Luhrmann has used many very effective film techniques in transforming the Mantua scene from text to screen. Through the choice of specific setting, music and camera techniques, he has emphasised the role of fate and haste in the lovers' tragedy. The setting of Mantua in a barren, desert environment reinforces the isolation of Romeo's banishment. With the harsh, unrelenting sun engulfing the scene with a strong orange light, it provides a stark contrast to earlier scenes where the love between Romeo and Juliet blossomed. The desert is a sterile environment, where in the absence of water, life ceases to exist. Baz Luhrmann has effectively employed the visual juxtaposition of water and desert to convey Romeo's isolation. Even the caravans, a temporary residence, are situated far apart. But the desert does not only convey a literal setting, it is also symbolic of Romeo's emotional desert. Without Juliet, Romeo's life is barren and sterile. This metaphorical setting highlights the depth and true love between Romeo and Juliet.
It builds up to a climax for the fateful news, yet the scene is silent as Romeo receives the misinformed news. The silence allows Romeo to absorb the revelations, yet the audience is drawn into the action with this dramatic irony and we watch in anguish at the consequences of Balthasar's mistake. The music changes again near the end of the scene, where it becomes a throbbing, relentless pulse. The strong beat forewarns of the actions that are going to take place, and builds up tension in the audience. The scene begins with the camera slowly sweeping across the desert and the next shot is a close-up focus on Romeo's face. This close-up shot is very important as it reveals many small details. We are able to clearly identify with Romeo's emotions, but more importantly, we are reminded by the scar and ring of dominating issues in the film. The scar is a remnant of Romeo's fight with Tybalt and symbolises the violence and hatred in Verona. Violence and social decay is one of the main ideas explored by Baz Luhrmann in the film and the scar shows that even in isolation, Romeo can never completely escape from the realities of Verona society.
The long angle shot afterwards show Romeo and Balthasar as tiny figures in a vast expanse of desert and lead to the idea of fate in the tragedy. It seems almost as if Romeo is overpowered by external forces, a small puppet on a large stage where he has no control over events. The central idea of fate is further reinforced by Romeo treading over the "urgent" telegram. The audience sees clearly how close the film was to a happy ending and fate is encapsulated by the final dramatic irony, where the mailman watches Romeo speeding off in haste, moments too late. The terrible timing of events show haste to also be a deciding factor in the chain of events, with the first shot of Balthasar overtaking the mail-van in his haste to reach Romeo and ending with Romeo speeding off, leaving the consequential telegram behind. Baz Luhrmann's has very successfully conveyed the ideas in the Shakespearean text through the use of effective film techniques. His choice of a desert environment, use of camera angles and music reinforces the role of fate and haste in the tragedy and reminds us that the juxtaposition of love and violence is never far away.
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