Romeo and Juliet, the legendary love story of two young “star-crossed” lovers whose appalling death caused their conflicting families to reconcile, a tragedy written by “Bard of Avon,” the great William Shakespeare during the Elizbethan Era. The play highlights the young love of Romeo and Juliet despite their rival families. Love wasn’t meant to be for Romeo and Juliet, but the young Romeo and Juliet couldn’t help but to feel emotions, and that unfortunately led to chaos. Baz Luhramnn had adapted Shakespeare’s play into a movie, Romeo + Juliet, and made it fitting to a modern audience in the 1990s. Luhramnn transformed the context, setting, costumes, music, and even themes in Romeo and Juliet by utilizing distinct film techniques and language devices. Luhramnn reversed the text to make it fit into his world of love and violence. Such changes are evident in the ballroom scene. Act 1 scene 5 is notably important in the play for it is where Romeo and Juliet, the heroes of the play first meet. Lord Capulet has prepared his house for a party, the serving men all a bustle. ‘More Light, you knave, and turn the tables up, quench the fire…’ Shakespeare had to have his character talk about the light since the lack of scenery during the Elizebethan Era. When Romeo arrives at the party, Tybalt is to recognize his voice as a Montague. Meanwhile, Romeo sees Juliet and the story of love at first sight begins; he says ‘did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For i ne’er saw true beauty till this night’. Romeo approaches Juliet touching her hand and in a dialogue with laced religious metaphors, Romeo tries to convince Juliet to kiss him. Romeo succeeds, but the Nurse arrives, and it is at that moment they realize love is not meant for them. Juliet says ‘My love sprung from my only hate’ after learning Romeo is a Montague, son of her only enemy. The meeting of Romeo and Juliet dominates the scene with extraordinary language that highlights the wonder both protagonists feel, Shakespeare promises equal expectations he has set up for the meeting. In contrast, Luhramnn’s adaptation presents the famous scene with visible differences. He altered the ball scene into a fancy dress/costume party. He made the film to suit a contemporary audience, and used varied methods such as camera angles, costumes and music. Costumes play a big part in Luhrmann’s version of the play, they represented the characters’ personality and identity. For instance, Romeo is seen dressed up as a knight, symbolising ‘the knight in shining armor’ to rescue Juliet, the damsel in distress, from her controlling family. Lord Capulet is dressed up as Julius Caesar to show that he is in charge. The first time Romeo and Juliet meet, their costumes echo their position. Despite Romeo being dressed as a knight, he is still human and Juliet, dressed as an angel, is out of his reach. Therefore, Luhrmann proves Romeo and Juliet cannot be together. During the scene, a fish tank is used as another symbol of their forbidden love. While it can indicate the sense that Romeo and Juliet’s love is completely pure, It can also be viewed as an obstacle in Romeo and Juliet’s paths, moreover, the luminous fish can symbolise stars which convey the message that they are truely “star-crossed”, Juliet a far away angel in the skies. In addition, the soft, slow “Kissing you” was the song performed when they looked through the fish tank, giving off a romantic mood. Overall, Baz Luhrmann modified the classical ball scene into a blasting party scene, making it much more appealing and fun. By way of conclusion, the classical tragedy is still presented by Baz Luhrmann and Shakespeare despite the differing context, setting, costumes, and music. Romeo + Juliet has successfully used various types of methods to convey different characters, themes, and moods with Baz Luhrmann’s own style of directing techniques. On the whole, Luhrmann simply modernised those points to appropriate it for today’s audience, for them to understand and enjoy the original play in his film, and his version proven that the film has more to it than it seems, viewers just need to read between the lines to legitimately understand the full meaning and message behind the film.
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