Romeo + Juliet is a film based on the well-known play written by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. It was directed by Baz Luhrmann and is set in Verona, a city in Italy. In this essay, I will be describing the first scene in the film (the prologue), and explaining how verbal and visual features were used in this scene to suggest what the film would be about, things like violence and romance. I will do this by; describing what happened in the scene, I will then go on to explain what the first scene suggests and how it suggests it; next, I will describe symbols in the scene that are important to the fundamental understanding of the whole film and why they are important, and finally, I will talk about the usage and effect of montage in the scene and how it suggests what the film will be about.
The first image in the scene is that of a small, old fashioned TV (well, it was the ‘90’s), with a news presenter reading out the prologue in the form of ‘breaking news’. As she (the presenter) goes on, the TV slowly zooms in until it fills the screen. When she finishes, there’s a fast zoom that zooms in on the statue of Christ, and the words ‘IN FAIR VERONA’ freeze on the screen briefly. Intense choral music begins here. There is then a montage of shots of Verona, showing some of the effects of the Capulet/Montague grudge, the intense music still going on. A voice over of half of the prologue begins and another montage of police rallying, riots, chaos, headlines of quotes from the prologue flash through on newspapers. The sound goes quiet to hear the voice over. There is then an introduction to Ted and Caroline Montague, Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet, Mercutio, and the Captain Prince, their names and roles in the film as words on the screen, intense music going. Next, the words of a few of the lines in the prologue flash quickly across the screen, another montage, this time flashes of what’s to come in the movie. This scene finishes on the title of the movie, and the music fades to quiet. Luhrmann uses many techniques in this scene, the key ones being montage, soundtrack and cinematography.
This scene is one of the most important scenes in the whole movie, as it provides a great deal of information to the viewer and is a good ‘hook’. It promises violence and romance, death and love, gunfights and parties – things that would attract all kinds of people. It shows all this through various means, such as montage, lighting and altered film speed. Through some of the film, it also shows that it is quite a serious movie, that it has serious or even sombre themes, for example, violence and death. It doesn’t really show any light-hearted, carefree themes like love and romance, which are quite common throughout the film. The prologue supplies information on the setting and the reasons why the events of the movie have happened, which are both important to understanding the film. This was provided by several aspects throughout the film, mainly the actual saying of the prologue by the ‘news presenter’ and a voice over.
There are a few symbols in this scene that are important to the fundamental understanding of the whole film. These are the ring in the background of the news broadcast at the beginning of the scene, the statue of Christ in between the Montague and Capulet towers and the statue of Christ itself. The ring in the background of the news broadcast is an important symbol because it represents the tragic love between Romeo and Juliet, as it broken down the middle. The fact that it is broken down the middle also corresponds to the grudge between the Montagues and the Capulets; that no two people from each family can be in love or get married without dreadful consequences. This was shown throughout the film of the constant pulling away of Romeo and Juliet from each other by their families. The statue of Christ between the Montague and Capulet towers, and the statue of Christ itself, are key images as they are important symbols of the forces which motivate, dominate and divide the people in the film. One example of this is the gunfight at the start of the film at a gas station; when Tybalt pulls back his jacket, it reveals an insignia of Jesus and the Sacred Heart, indicating a strong religious role in his life and his dedication to Christianity. It is important to understand the significance of religion in Romeo + Juliet to get full understanding of the movie.
In this scene, montage is used numerous times and for a few different reasons. Montage is a good and effective way to show the viewer many images very quickly. It is used to show the effects of the Montague/Capulet fight, the police movement and action against riots and the like (fires, chaos, helicopter shots), newspaper headlines showing quotes like ‘Ancient Grudge’ and ‘Civil Blood Makes Civil Hands Unclean’ from the prologue and snapshots of events that will happen later in the film. It is an effective film technique to use as it has many uses, such as giving lots of information in a short time and suggesting fast-paced, unrestrained action in the film. This is exactly the effect the montage in this scene had and provided a good ‘hook’ for the audience.
In this essay, I have described the first scene in the film Romeo + Juliet and explained how verbal and visual features were used in this scene to suggest what the text would be about. I have done this by; describing what happened in the scene (the prologue), explained what it suggests and how it suggests it, described symbols in the scene and how they are important in the fundamental understanding of the film and talked about the use and effect of montage in the scene and how it suggests what the film will be about. Each of my points has provided significant detail into the understanding of what the first scene in the film suggests what the film will be about and I have offered sufficient evidence to justify each point.From the techniques mentioned in this essay, I have learnt what the first scene suggested and, after watching the rest of the movie, believe it to be accurate. By Isaac Cox