Romeo and Juliet

The way in which Baz Luhrmann presents the opening of Romeo and Juliet, and how successful he is in appealing to younger people who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare.

‘To be or not to be’ and ‘where for art thou Romeo’ are the stereotypical views of today’s generation towards Shakespeare and his plays. Baz Luhrmann brings the Shakespearean play to a new level by modernizing Shakespeare’s famous tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’. He replaces the towns for the cities, the swords for the guns, and London 16th century to Hollywood 20th century.

When talking about Shakespeare to a young audience there are many misconceptions surrounding his plays. People believe the plays are out dated, and irrelevant to today’s culture. They thought this because Shakespeare is known for his complicated long winded and confusing plays, because of the language of the time and how and where it was set meant that any directors trying to create one of Shakespeare plays would only reinforce these misconceptions.

In Baz Luhrmann’s (BL) production he attempts to stamp out these ideas of Shakespeare’s plays with fresh well-known actors, set in a bustling city, with a modern angle on the play. It opens on long shot of a turned off television screen. It switches its self on and with every change of the channel its gives information of the director and producer. Finally a black female newsreader appears on the TV, this already indicates how BL is trying to change people view of Shakespeare, as in Shakespearean times women weren’t allowed to perform let alone black women, so this shows how BL telling the audience what he doing and how he is changing the face of Shakespeare. The camera starts to slowly creep towards the presenter on the television as she begins reading the prologue. Once she has finished the camera suddenly moves very fast into the T.V past the report and onto a shot of Verona and the statue at the centre of town it the camera continues its fast approach cutting to shots of battle and characters as it reaches its destination, and once it has made it to the head of the statue the prologue begins once more. During the short amount of time from the end of the first prologue and the beginning of the second several things are shown to us, the police helicopters, the gun battles, the buildings, Verona, all of which will be in the play at some point in the film. This tells us not only what is to come, which is a visual connection to the prologue, but it also shows what great and terrible things can happen in a very short space of time, which in some respects is what the play is about.

The prologue in Shakespearean times was a means to one calm the audience down because in those days the poorest would stand at the bottom next the stage in the mud, they would often be load, violent, and would need a means to be reminded to shut up and start watching the play and the prologue would be the que for that. The second reason for the prologue would be to give the often non-educated audience a clue to what would happen during the play so would get disinterested and give up.

The prologue now begins again with much the same idea, short shots the various scenes of battle, power, and love, with a gruff distinguished male voice this time that many would recognise from trailers from other films, accompanying the audio prologue is visual help with bold bright white words from on a jet black background for a bigger impact. For further visual help along with the word its shots from the rest of the film explaining the prologue e.g. when it says ‘two households’ it shows two families side by side and then it cuts to two buildings with the words ‘Capulet’ topping one in bight striking letters and to second building of topped with the word

‘Montague’ in similarly bright letters.

Aside from the distinguished voice, the impressive camera work, and striking worded a complement for those hard of hearing is the music and sound effects. The music and the sound effects are the single most powerful subject in this prologue because