Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann

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I believe that Baz Luhrmann has created a very effective prologue and version of Act 1 Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, using visual images and landmarks along with the language to aid the audience in understanding the story. Using the media throughout, Luhrmann makes the situations easier for the audience to grasp, and in turn, relate to. The film begins with the camera zooming in on a television. The prologue is spoken by a black female news reporter. Using a coloured female reporter is effective as it shows how universally important the story is. This indicates the importance of the Montagues and the Capulets for their frays and fights to shown on national television. Using the media makes the situation seem more real, and makes it easier for the audience to relate to as the media is where we find out most of our news in a modern day world. In the background of the news studio the image of a broken ring appears along with a caption saying ‘star-crossed lovers'. This indicates to the audience how their love and unity will be broken during the story. A caption then appears reading ‘in Fair Verona'. This is telling the audience that Verona should be a nice, peaceful place to live, but the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is ruining everything for all the citizens of Verona. This gives an indication to the audience of how long the fighting has been going on, and how much it affects everyone. The helicopter flying over the beaches of Verona reinforces to the audience, that Verona should be a pleasant place for everyone to live. Immediately the audience is made aware of how important religion is, and how both families should be bound by the rules of religion. It is important for Baz Luhrmann to do this as in a modern day world; religion is not generally seen to be as important as it used to be. Luhrmann frequently reminds the audience of this, referring back to the statue of Christ in Verona, and having religious messages and images throughout. The Prologue is effectively spoken to the audience 3 times, the news reporter, the onscreen captions and it is then spoken by Friar Laurence. Having the Friar speak the prologue is effective for the audience as he has a high position in society, and plays an important part throughout the story. After showing the scenery of Verona, the camera then pans back to the two tower blocks, each owned by either the Montague family or the Capulet family. The buildings are identical, and command over the city. This shows the audience how similar in wealth and stature the two families are. It also shows what an important role they play in the society, and how they should be respectable and setting an example to the other citizens of Verona. There is then a shot of the Montague and Capulet family trees. This is significant to the audience as it gives an indication of how long the row has been going on. The title sequence begins with shots of previous newspaper headlines, tv reports and images of the Montagues and Capulets. All of these show trouble that has been going on between the family previously, show how much each family despise the other, and indicate how eager they are to get one up on the other family. There are also shots of police cars, sirens and flashing police lights. This demonstrates the seriousness of the crimes, and how often the police time is wasted. The sequence continues showing freeze frames of the main characters. This helps the audience to quickly learn the characters, and aids their understanding of the plot. It also gives an impression of the status of both families, in the way they dress and in their surroundings. The title appears on screen. Simple white writing against a black background makes a noticeable title, and has impact on the audience. The ‘and' between Romeo and Juliet is made up of a blood-red crucifix. This again reinforces the message of religion, and the blood-red signifies the violence and danger of the story...
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