Romeo ; Juliet

This essay is based on Baz Luhrman’s modern interpretation of the Shakespeare play; Romeo + Juliet. It will be focusing on the opening scene, and Prologue. I will be analysing how Baz Lurhman portrays the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. I will also be discussing how the presentation of The Prologue helps the audience to understand the play.

The film begins with a blank TV screen. The TV screen could represent the modern interpretation to the play. The screen the becomes occupied by a news-reader, who begins reciting the sonnet. The idea of the sonnet being read off the news, emphasises the how important the situation is.

Once the news-reader has completed the sonnet, the TV ‘transports’ you to the scene of the play; Verona. The establishing shot becomes apparent; a Montague building separated form a Capulet building, only by the statue of Christ. This emphasises the theme of religion, and the line in the sonnet:

“Both alike in dignity”

This is because each building belittles the rest of Verona, as well as the other.

The camera then speeds up and shows a sequence of fast shots. This is known as ‘mise en scene’. This represents a degree of chaos, and highlights the conflict between the two families. The Prologue is then recited again, this time, by the Friar. As he reads, the words are reinforced by bold, white text, on a black background. The contrasting colours could be highlighting the two families’ differences. The use of colour; in this case black and white, are most likely an deliberate choice, as black and white are both immediate opposites, therefore helping the audience differentiate between text and background. This allows the audience to correlate the friar’s voice with the text, despite the short amount of time in which the text is shown.

After the Friar has completed The Prologue, the camera focuses on a family tree, of each family; in turn. Almost as soon as it has shown the family trees, the shot becomes engulfed in flames. The flames could convey a message of hatred, rage and anger between the two families. From the flames, a newspaper heading appears, whilst the flames fade. The heading suggests re-occurring violence between both the Montagues and the Capulets, and could also show that the feud is still as strong as ever.

We can then learn that the strongest of the families quarrel lies between the youth of each house. This becomes apparent when the camera focuses on a number of magazines, with the younger generation of each house on the cover. Baz Lurhman also incorporates the use of magazines, as opposed to tabloids, when referring to the youth, as younger people are usually more associated with magazines.

In the next shot, the parents of each house are pictured, accompanied by the actor’s name and character. In turn, the same happens for every character. This is important, as it allows the audience to differentiate between the members of each family, and who the main roles are. The types of shots depicted are very solemn, except for a character named ‘Paris’. He is shown in a happy scene; as he is not involved in the feud, whilst every other character is affected, in some way, by the civil conflict.

The Prologue concludes with a montage of shots, featured earlier in The Prologue, aswell as a repertoire of emotion-provoking shots, from later in the film. As the closing sequence is shown, shots of fireworks are merged in, to again, establish the theme of chaos. Finally, the title appears, and The Prologue finishes.

The final aspect of Baz Luhrman’s interpretation, is the Music. Without this particular piece (Carmena Burana), The Prologue would not provoke as many emotions within the audience. This is because; as the tempo, and volume rises beyond forte, Baz secrenises the action scenes to run along side this. He also utilises the piano-pianissimo parts of the piece to again, establish the sonnet. All together, the music adds the element of drama, and strong emotions to the opening scene.

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