Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet

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How has Baz Luhrmann made Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo & Juliet’ accessible to a modern audience? Baz Luhrmann has made a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “Romeo & Juliet” to make the original play easily understandable for modern audiences. He has made it more accessible by incorporating familiar locations and scenes, references to other works, genre’s and styles, marketing it to a teenage audience, the use of clever sound techniques, characterisation, and through the use of clever camerawork and editing techniques. Through these techniques and devices, as well as making the film visually appealing, Baz Luhrmann has made the original play “Romeo & Juliet” much more accessible for modern audiences. Familiar locations are used throughout the whole film. Just as the film opens, the film reveals the city from a helicopter, and shows two skyscrapers that read “Montague” and “Capulet” as well as recurring pictures of the statue of Jesus. The film itself was filmed in Mexico City, an urban area near a beach. ‘Mantua’ is located at a barren deserted area that looks like a rundown trailer park on the outskirts of Verona. These locations allow “Romeo and Juliet” to adapt to the modern era, and are familiar to modern audiences and help them to understand the scene that is happening in the area (clearly Romeo feels lonely and empty-hearted being in ‘Mantua’ that is just as barren and empty). Well known scenes are used in the film to help the audience to further understand what is happening in the film. When Romeo and Juliet kiss for the first time they are in an elevator alone, and with lights shining all around them. Familiar scenes such as Romeo’s ‘chicken run’ with Tybalt, and two lovers in an illuminating pool help the audience to easily understand the meaning of the scene and the emotions felt by the characters during the scene. There are constant references to other works, genres and styles. These allusions add a sense of irony and satire in the scene as well as help the audience understand the event more clearly. The clear allusion to ‘West Side Story’ in the beginning brawl scene adds a touch of humour to the serious tone of the event. The balcony scene, where Romeo was supposed to see Juliet, broke the audience expectations (to the original play) and added a comedic view of the situation when, rather than Juliet, the middle-aged nurse comes out. These constant references, as well as adding humour to the film, extend the understanding of the film for modern audiences. Baz Luhrmann aims his version of “Romeo and Juliet” towards the teenage audience to make it more ‘hip’ and, therefore, more accessible to modern audiences. Baz Luhrmann uses how children are no longer bound by their parents. The original play is about two “star-cross’d lovers” who go against their parents for love. Baz Luhrmann takes this idea one step further by making the children seem even more rebellious. All these techniques used throughout the film show how the children are not bound to their parents, much like modern society, allowing teenagers to easily relate to the characters. To help understand the mood, pace and rhythm of the situation, Baz Luhrmann has incorporated several sound techniques throughout the film. A good example is near the end, where Romeo runs to the church with the police chasing him. Dramatic vocals are heard along with the quick beating of the drums, police sirens and the sound of the helicopter’s blades, and the clock ticking in the background, are all heard during this run towards the church. These sounds, when combined, create a sense of quick pace, urgency and give a dramatic tone to this event, and, with the volume being in a constant crescendo, also gives a build up to following events. Another example is the elevator scene, where Romeo and Juliet kiss, where the string instruments heightens how romantic the event is. Another sound technique used was the lyrics chosen in songs. At the party scene, “Young...
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