To reinforce the conflict between the two families Baz Luhrmann starts off by putting the prologue across in numerous ways. First it is read by the news presenter using the original lines written by Shakespeare, and then secondly by a voice over while we are still watching the contrasting things between the two families like the skyscrapers, newspaper headlines and police helicopters. I think Baz Luhrmann does this to modernise the play for a modern audience just as Shakespeare would have written the play to his audience’s preferences. If Baz Luhrmann was to direct the movie just as the play had been written he would not attract the young action-seeking audience to watch the film. Luhrmann uses a lot of things in the film to update it such as creating private licence plates on both the Capulet and Montegues cars, setting the film in a city, and using modern fashion. I think that Luhrmann uses the clothing in the film to help you recognise the two different families, the Montegue boys wear fun beach shirts and look as though there out just for a bit of a laugh. Anyhow the Capulet Gang couldn’t be dressed any more differently; they wear all black outfits, dark black shoes with steel heels and smoke cigars.
However Baz Luhrmann still keeps some of Shakespeare’s original ideas in the movie to maintain the Shakespeare feeling. The most obvious aspect being the use of the old English language and script that has hardly changed between the play and the movie. He also in incorporates the fact that in Shakespeare’s time there would be no guns but just swords by zooming in, an extreme close up on Benvolio’s gun which reads “SWORD 11”
When Baz Luhrmann introduces the main characters he does it in peculiar but very effective way. We are shown a tiny snippet of the character in action, then a freeze frame while on a close up of the character and text describing the characters name and his or her relationship to Romeo or Juliet,
E.g. “Benvolio (Romeo’s Cousin).” This is all done in a fast sequence with dramatic music being played at the same time. The dramatic music adds to the effectiveness of the opening and starts to make you nervous and tense. As soon as the characters have been introduced the music starts to build to a climax while very fast short images are being played out of the film, such as a quire boy singing, Tybalt pointing his gone at a child and Benvolio shooting Tybalt.
Then the film cuts to the Montegue boy’s car. They are wearing their jazzy shirts and you can hear loud pop music coming from their car,
“The Boys, The Boys.”
This is used to reinforce their beach boy image.
This is however completely different to the way the Capulet boys are introduced. The first we see of the Capulet boys is at petrol station the Montegue boys stop at. At first the Montegues don’t realise the Capulets are there and are joking around making fun of the religious school girls in there mini bus, this adds a bit of bawdy and slapstick humour into the play. When we first see Tybalt we only see his feet as he steps out of his mean looking dark presumably fast car, this is very effective as it makes you extremity anxious to see his face. There is no sound other than the noise his steel-heeled shoes make when he walks. All the other Capulets are dressed in black and the freeze frames are used again to introduce the new characters but with cowboy style western music this time.
As soon as the Montegues are aware that the Capulets are there they look terrified. So frightened that when one of the Capulets shouts BOO! They fall back into their car.
Baz Luhrmann carries on with the western image in the garage scene and uses different noises and actions to put it across. He uses a swinging fuel sign to recreate the noise and action of saloon doors; he uses silence like they do in old western films when they enter a town. Tybalt also contributes to the modern western impression by grinding things with his shoes such as a match, and smoking cigars. The actions of Tybalt are always a lot louder and the volume concentrated upon that action. In other words every thing else is silent except Tybalts action like the clinking of his steel shoes or the striking of a match.
I found that the start of the film is extremely effective and that the Montegues are portrayed as being the good people who are not looking for trouble. Baz Luhrmann has made a very good job of the opening few scenes.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This makes some good points on visual and audio presentation but more links need to be made with the original text and the way Shakespeare presented his characters in his original text. 3 Stars