Texts need to continually change and evolve to suit different audiences. This is evident in Shakespearian dramas such as Romeo and Juliet, which has evolved to suit today’s modern society and remain interesting to audiences around the world. Baz Luhrmann has changed scenes in Romeo and Juliet to make it appeal to audiences by using a number of film techniques. The prologue is one of many scenes, which has been evolutionised by being played in the movie twice, once on a television screen and another through a montage of images, which creates tension.
The Capulet and Montague Brawl also has undergone change by being set at a gas station to help create and characterise the Montague and Capulet boys. Through costuming at Capulet’s party, the romantic balcony scene, Mercutio’s death and Romeo and Juliet’s death, it is obvious that films need to undergo change to remain interesting to audiences and stay modernised. Baz Luhrmann has changed the prologue to make it suit the audience of people from modern society. The montage of events in the film Romeo and Juliet creates tension and an insight of what the play is about.
Luhrmann has used images of the two household buildings, which are both taller than other buildings around them and are equal in height proving that they are both a like in dignity and respect. The shot of the two households shows a road that divides them because of their differences that they hold, however they are both similar in status. The camera shots that they use in the montage, along with the jump cuts, create tension and build suspense. The loud and powerful soundtrack, which crescendos as the images of the brawl are shown on screen, reinforces this tension.
Further, the prologue is played on a television screen, which is one of the sources of how we receive information of what is going on around us. Luhrmann has used the television screen rather than a chorus to make it appeal more to a modern audience. He has done this to show that the ideas of the story are still relevant but need to evolve. Luhrmann has modernised the Montague and Capulet brawl at the gas station by using soundtracks and film techniques to show tension between the two families.
He uses costumes, to show the personalities that each character portrays and soundtrack, which relates to each character in conjunction. The Capulet’s are dressed in leather and expensive steel capped boots, which makes them appear as dangerous and a threat to others. The Montague boys are dressed in a hip hop style, with loose clothing and hip hop soundtracks played as they enter the scene, this creates an innocent effect, this creates a laid back character, in which they aren’t any harm to the people around them.
As Tybalt enters the scene the music changes to a western theme, when he pulls out his gun and points it at the Montagues a sign “add more fuel to your fire” – the first visual pun is shown. Another pun that is used and shown several times is “Phoenix Gas”, the name of the gas station where the fight is held. This visual pun is referring to the bird phoenix, which with fire it is reincarnated to live through its youth time and time again which is what occurs in this scene. The sign is seen as a visual pun because one of the Montague boys gets shot and lives through the injury.
Luhrmann has used visual techniques and costuming to create characterisation in the Capulet’s party scene. He uses costuming to establish the different personalities that they each hold, he dresses Romeo in a knight costume to show that he is “Juliet’s knight in shining armour”, he then dresses Juliet as an angel to show that she is an innocent girl who isn’t any harm to anybody and she is someone that you are destined to fall in love with Romeo. Mercutio is dressed up as a girl along with Paris who is dressed as an astronaut.
Luhrmann has then dressed Tybalt as a devil to hint to the audience that he is “evil” and is a dangerous person in the film. Capulet has been dressed as an emperor, proposing that he is powerful, more than every other person at the party, and that he has a lot of money in the family name, his wife, Lady Capulet is dressed as the Roman Goddess, Cleopatra. Camera techniques such as panning show Romeo overwhelmed after he takes the pill to make him fall in love with someone at the party, multiple jump cuts are shown of Mercutio and Capulet dancing and Romeo being confused.
Once Romeo plunges from the basin of water, he spots Juliet on the other side of the bathroom staring into the fish tank, a visual metaphor is used as it is representing the oceans that separate them from meeting because of the differences that they both portray, which keep them from meeting each other. Luhrmann has changed this scene to make it suit modern audiences by using modernised sources, such as an elevator where Romeo and Juliet hold their first kiss, and by having upbeat music at the party to create an atmosphere that the audience is familiar with.
The Balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet has been evolved to show how society has changed since the Shakespearian Era. Baz Luhrmann has changed the scene from staying traditional, to make it modernised. Through the use of lighting, he has created vectors that lead our eyes to look at the important aspects of the scene. The lighting that has been used is dim as the source is from fairy lights, which hang around the pool area this creates a romantic feel and shows the intimacy between Romeo and Juliet whilst having a glimmering effect.
Luhrmann has set the scene is set in a pool area that is below the balcony of Juliet’s bedroom, this has been changed from the play as it is no longer set off an orchard below Juliet’s balcony. As Romeo climbs the orchard to Juliet’s bedroom he sees Nurse, this has been changed from the original Romeo and Juliet as he sees Juliet first in the play. Juliet then comes down the elevator to the pool side at Romeo’s level, this is showing an example of how times have changed since the Elizabethan Era as women have now become equal to men.
The elevator, which Juliet comes downstairs in, is one sign of evolution, as well as having the pool as a key feature in the scene. Mercutio’s death has been modernised to show the tension that is created in the scene through film techniques. Visual metaphors are used to show the contrast of light and dark throughout the scene. The scene gets darker as it goes on, this is hinting to the audience that something good is going to come to an end, and in this case it is Mercutio’s life. A storm then rolls in and Tybalt shoots Mercutio, it is creating the emotions of the characters through the weather around them.
The soundtrack throughout the scene has different tempos and creates a lot of tension that get built up until Mercutio dies. The scene has evolved from the play as it is set at a beach where Montague boys hang out at their own private section, however in the play it is set in a more public place. Low angle shots are used to show the importance of the scene as well as the words that Mercutio is saying, the shots change to high angles when the storm starts to roll in showing that their actions are important.
The deaths of Romeo and Juliet have undergone change to show the drama and emotion that the scene holds. With different point of view shots it makes the audience feel the different emotions that Romeo is feeling, they feel as though they are walking in his shoes. The room around him is lit up with candles and crucifixes, making it obvious that it is in church. Luhrmann has modified the scene by moving it to be set in a church, lit up with lights and candles instead of a tomb which is dark, this is to emphasise the tension that the scene holds as well as create vectors and frames.
As Romeo walks closer to Juliet, the soundtrack narrates the emotion that he portrays and the importance of this final scene. Juliet is wearing a wedding dress and holding a bouquet of flowers, showing the irony of the scene as she was supposed to get married in it. Another change that Luhrmann has made to the scene is to cut Paris and Friar Lawrence out to show the emphasis and tension in the last minutes of their life. Luhrmann uses different camera shots to show the emphasis of the scene, he uses a close up shot of Juliet when her fingers and her body twitch as she starts to wake up, creating tension.
When Juliet opens her eyes an extreme close up is used to show the tension that has been built up throughout the scene, Romeo then drinks the poison, which is one of the big changes Luhrmann has made to evolve the story of Romeo and Juliet. This change provides us with shock and leaves us wondering what is going to happen next. Romeo and Juliet share their final moments with each other before Romeo dies, Juliet then holds a gun to her head and shoots herself to be with Romeo.
A final montage shows the tragedy that has struck, the images that are shown are of them being happily in love and expressing their feelings. Luhrmann has evolved this scene to change it from the traditional to make the modern day audience stay interested in the film by having changes made that aren’t in the play itself. Baz Luhrmann has adapted Romeo and Juliet to make it modernised, it demonstrates that audiences and the environment are constantly changing.
Through modernisation of scenes from Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that texts need to under go change to suit the environment that surrounds them. By changing traditional scenes that the audience knows and loves, it is important to changes ideas of the scene to entertain the viewer and keep them intrigued through out the film. By using different camera shots, soundtracks and film techniques, Baz Luhrmann has created a way in which the movie still stays interesting by using techniques that relate to the film.