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A review of baz luhrmanns movie adaptation of william shakespeares play romeo and juliet

Do Film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet enhance Shakespeare in contemporary society or undermine his cultural status?

Movies in Theaters

Laura Hammond Hammond analyses the contemporary cultural perception of film adaptations, arguing against critics who regard them as occupying a diminished status in comparison to the original text.

Film adaptations have long been considered as involving a lowering of the status of the original venerated book or play.

The assumption is that they not only simplify the source, but that they also undermine it and its place in the classical canon. I want his plays to be enjoyed by ordinary people. For a largely illiterate audience he transferred from page to stage and from narrative to drama some of the central writings of his time.

These two films have been selected due to their status as appealing to a youthful audience and therefore selected by schools as the way in which we introduce Shakespeare to a new generation.

Both Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli have been a popular choice for use in schools, due to their apparent appeal to a younger audience. This can be seen especially in Act one Scene five, in which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. Both directors use dance and song for the first meeting; Zeffirelli uses a traditional Italian dance, the moresca, which fits with his period style drama and would have been similar to the dances used on stage in the s, when Romeo and Juliet was originally performed.

Romeo + Juliet

The youth of the actors is particularly noticeable here, due to the close ups Zeffirelli uses of their faces which appear young and ingenuous. Luhrmann uses a similar motif technique, blurring everything else whilst the couple fall in love.

The men fighting are extremely young, continuing a feud commenced before they were born and whose origins are never explained, much like the youths who were fighting the Vietnam War, which began in One of the ways he did this was through his setting; Luhrmann used the setting of Mexico City.

However in terms of characterisation, Luhrmann does this in order to make Friar Lawrence into a figure whom modern teenagers might understand Romeo seeking help and advice from, thereby maintaining his accepted status as the trusted confidant and helper of Romeo and Juliet.

  1. This physical closeness between the characters creates a more animalistic fight and death of one of them seems inevitable. The men fighting are extremely young, continuing a feud commenced before they were born and whose origins are never explained, much like the youths who were fighting the Vietnam War, which began in
  2. Both Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli have been a popular choice for use in schools, due to their apparent appeal to a younger audience.
  3. Shakespeare is possibly the best-known playwright of our time.

The sexually ambiguous portrayal of Mercutio has also sparked critical controversies. Zeffirelli and Luhrmann interpret this in different ways. Zeffirelli includes much physical humour, as if they are playing childishly with the swords. There appears to be no malicious intent behind their banter and joking; they play with the hay and do no more than tap each other with swords.

Luhrmann takes an alternative perspective, ignoring the empty bravado of Tybalt and turning him into a brute, not allowing him any added dimensions; we see in him no softness or remorse. The dramatic change between the two styles of fighting is significant.

  • This physical closeness between the characters creates a more animalistic fight and death of one of them seems inevitable;
  • One of the ways he did this was through his setting; Luhrmann used the setting of Mexico City;
  • The ensuing fight scene provides an excellent example of the difference in choreography and props;
  • These two films have been selected due to their status as appealing to a youthful audience and therefore selected by schools as the way in which we introduce Shakespeare to a new generation;
  • It also emphasises the stark difference between the two fights.

The fighting also descends from civilised swordplay to hand to hand brawling in the dust. This physical closeness between the characters creates a more animalistic fight and death of one of them seems inevitable. To do this he uses a darker approach. From the beginning there is a sense of trespass when the Capulets arrive at Verona Beach.

  • Zeffirelli and Luhrmann interpret this in different ways;
  • Both directors use dance and song for the first meeting; Zeffirelli uses a traditional Italian dance, the moresca, which fits with his period style drama and would have been similar to the dances used on stage in the 1590s, when Romeo and Juliet was originally performed;
  • With the Oscar nominated 'pop-promo' design of the film, Shakespeare became fashionable and cool once again;
  • The film is liberal with its use of violence and Luhrmann is not afraid to show blood, showing the violence of the scene through the camera work, using many different angles and constantly cutting between shots to create a mad, disjointed scene.

The sense of immediate danger is also clear from the characters serious demeanours and the foreboding music. The film is liberal with its use of violence and Luhrmann is not afraid to show blood, showing the violence of the scene through the camera work, using many different angles and constantly cutting between shots to create a mad, disjointed scene.

The beach and the storm backdrop emphasise the wide-ranging danger of the situation, and yet concentrate ones view of the intimacy of death.

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The storm also symbolises the storm which awaits Romeo and Juliet, as after this scene their world is ripped apart, as is the beach after the storm. Luhrmann includes shots of buildings falling apart and being blown away as well as locals blocking up their homes and hiding from the onslaught of death. Film media allows such wild and dramatic allusions, which would be impossible to stage in a theatre, in a way this bring the images and thereby the story to life for the audience, who could arguably engage more in what they are watching.

  • It also creates a more dynamic and exciting scene, which would appeal to modern viewers, who are used to action packed sequences;
  • Shakespeare incorporated jokes of the time, mentions of royalty, and allusions to historical events in his plays.

It also creates a more dynamic and exciting scene, which would appeal to modern viewers, who are used to action packed sequences. It could be argued that Shakespeare as a populariser in his own time, if born now, would have been at the forefront of such blockbusters. Both Zeffirelli and Luhrmann exclude two main points that Shakespeare includes in his play.

Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" compared with Shakespeare's Original Work

Both directors felt it necessary to have Mercutio die on screen. A death scene does give added drama to the films; to take Mercutio off screen at that point could have caused the tension and the scene to fall flat, removing the sense of pace.

Secondly, in the play, Tybalt returns to Romeo rather than Romeo running after him as he does in both films. It also emphasises the stark difference between the two fights. Instead Tybalt returns, [59] riling Romeo into the frenzy which drives him to kill.

Shakespeare is possibly the best-known playwright of our time. Most of his plays have been adapted for the big screen. However, critics have long been dismissive of the new media approach, arguing that it undermines his cultural status as high art that should not be discredited by adaptations. The relationship between text and film London: Routledge, Jackson, Russell.

Penguin Books, Wain, John. Cambridge University Press, ,p. Penguin Books, ,V.