ASSESSMENT TYPE: TEXT ANALYSIS
Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann
The play Romeo and Juliet, originally written by William Shakespeare in the 1500’s, is famous for the love and tragedy represented through the classic literature. To this day it is still a highly respected play. Due to its popularity, there have been multiple films produced using this tragic love story. This study of Romeo and Juliet is based on the 1996 film version directed by Baz Luhrmann, in which Luhrmann keeps aspects of Shakespeare alive through certain techniques such as symbolism, and Christianity and themes of love and fate. Symbolism is evident in the film through many techniques Luhrmann uses to involve important aspects, yet adds a modern twist to make it current. The main theme of love is between Romeo and Juliet who are star-crossed lovers. Fate is experienced when Romeo and Juliet die together inside the church. Lastly, Christianity was highly valued by all characters in Shakespeare’s play and Luhrmann has shown his understanding through keeping many Christian symbols, values and artifacts in the film. In the film Luhrmann adds a modern twist to the story, however, keeps aspects of Shakespeare alive through symbolism. Techniques such as using guns in the film instead of swords symbolizes Luhrmann’s modern take on the original play, through the use of a modern weapon. The Globe Theatre was where Shakespeare’s play was originally performed and Luhrmann cleverly remodels it, involving it in his film to reflect how Shakespeare’s plays were performed on a stage. Particular costume choices by Luhrmann reflect each characters personality as well as the social context of the 1500’s. For example, Romeo is dressed as a knight in shining amour and Juliet is dressed as an angel, representing Juliet’s innocence as she is young and forced to marry Paris. Romeo’s costume is a figurine of prince charming who will sweep Juliet off her feet and save her from going through with her forced marriage. A clever way that Luhrmann has represented the divide between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s is when Juliet and Romeo first lay eyes on each other and they are on opposite sides of a large fish tank. The tank is separating them and representing that they are practically an ocean a part as they are both from the feuding families. Therefore, by symbolizing the aspects of the play, Luhrmann has successfully created a realistic, yet modernized version of Shakespeare’s play. Love is naturally the most important and dominant theme in Romeo and Juliet. With Romeo and Juliet experiencing this idea of ‘love at first sight’, the viewer of the film instantly realises that love is the underlying theme of the story line. Luhrmann embodies the same themes as the play, so that the film version does not alter the original storyline. Romeo and Juliet were meant to be together by fate. They are star crossed lovers, meaning they are supposedly written in the stars together. Another aspect that remains the same in the film is the language spoken by the characters. It is classic literature that has a hidden story behind it. The choice of words that Shakespeare uses helps demonstrate the type of love between Romeo and Juliet. Their love is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and, at times, against themselves.
Christianity was at the top of the social pyramid during the 1500’s and Shakespeare involved it in his play by including Christian symbols, values and artifacts in the film. Luhrmann achieves this sense of Christianity at the very start of the film through a battle between Tybalt and Benvolio. The Christian aspect evident in this scene is shown on the guns which have Christ crosses on them as well as the cars. Tybalt wore a grill that read ‘sin’ and also had a cross logo on his vest. Also, present in the first scene were nuns from the Ladies College. Following on, all the women throughout Luhrmann’s film version wore cross necklaces to symbolise their belief in god. There are constant references to the church throughout the film such as the shrine in Juliet’s bedroom of Mother Mary and how Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet all die at the same church. Although Luhrmann keeps Christianity in the film, he also contradicts this by encompassing a glimpse of prostitution. In the 1500’s prostitution was a common occurrence and by exploring it in the film, viewers have a clearer concept of this setting. Prostitution was frowned upon as it is a sin, yet a majority of society in the 1500’s turned to prostitution as a way to make money. By Luhrmann involving Christianity in the film, he has given viewers a clearer concept of the 1500’s. In conclusion, Luhrmann accomplishes the film Romeo and Juliet by keeping the themes of love and fate the same, embodying Christian symbols and artifacts and by symbolising certain aspects of the original play itself while creating a modern twist. Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play is reflected with much authenticity throughout the film. Word Count: 828