Known worldwide for its classic storyline, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare has seen many different remakes of the version of the play. Baz Luhrmann tries to replicate the play by switching the set into today’s environment. Luhrmann makes a great job integrating futuristic aspects, which is one of the reasons why the adaptation was popular.
At first, the movie looked a little bit ridiculous. The opening starts off with the Montague “gang” having a fight with the rival group of Capulet. The dispute seems to be really childish and violent at first because of the way they react to each other’s provocation. But then it becomes apparent that the director is depicting an equivalent situation in the Italian Renaissance. Meaningless quarrels with lots of violence that usually end with many casualties on both sides. When I first read the play in high school, I did not particularly realize how violent the rivalry was. Unless someone is somewhat knowledgeable about Italian behaviors during the Renaissance period, it becomes difficult to estimate the gravity of the rivalry situation. By creating a movie that is relatable to everybody, the play becomes much more personal and conveys the message that it did to the people back in the day.
What is really striking about this movie is that it combines both new visual effects from current movies and old lines from the play. As odds as it sounds, Mercutio rolling in a Chevy Monte Carlo is not a bad sight. After a few minutes of playing the movie, I quickly forgot that the characters were using old English and the exact lines of the original play. I felt like the confrontations were more intense probably because of the presence of guns in the fights. Of course, the fights were as intense back in the day since the only dangerous hand carried weapons were blades. Also the Prince or Chief of Police felt more present than in the play. Because of the visual effects, it was more clear when the Prince warned both factions for their insolence. The camera angles changing and lightning erupting in the background gives a queue to the audience to pay attention to what the character is about to say, which helps understanding some of the confusing syntax of the play.
The visual queues of the movie really help understand other things like emotions. Being a non-native English speaker, I sometimes find trouble when it comes to understand some of the complex double meaning lines. Sometimes it is not the meaning that is confusing, but what the context of the phrase. The tone changes so quickly that it becomes difficult to see what kind of feeling is going through the character. By watching the Luhrmann version of the play, the emotions become very distinct and the context of the lines become less of mystery. For example, the emotions amplify as a result of visual queues. From reading the play, I knew Romeo was very attached to Mercutio. However, from watching the Luhrmann version, I could notice that the death of his friend was very painful to the point that it was driving him to commit the terrible crime against Tybalt.
I think the movie was very good complement to the play in order to understand the emotions and the context of the play. I would recommend one to read the play first in order to appreciate the movie. However, it also works the other way around since the movie clarified a lot of the confusing lines the play had.