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‘To Be or Not to Be’ – Romeo and Juliet

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    The way in which Baz Luhrmann presents the opening of Romeo and Juliet, andhow successful he is in appealing to younger people who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare. ‘To be or not to be’ and ‘where for art thou Romeo’ are the stereotypical views of today’s generation towards Shakespeare and his plays. Baz Luhrmann brings the Shakespearean play to a new level bymodernizing Shakespeare’s famous tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’. He replaces the towns for the cities, the swords for the guns, and London 16th centuryto Hollywood 20th century. When talking about Shakespeare to a young audience there are manymisconceptions surrounding his plays. People believe the plays are outdated, and irrelevant to today’s culture. They thought this becauseShakespeare is known for his complicated long winded and confusing plays,because of the language of the time and how and where it was set meant thatany directors trying to create one of Shakespeare plays would onlyreinforce these misconceptions.

    In Baz Luhrmann’s (BL) production he attempts to stamp out these ideas ofShakespeare’s plays with fresh well-known actors, set in a bustling city,with a modern angle on the play. It opens on long shot of a turned offtelevision screen. It switches its self on and with every change of thechannel its gives information of the director and producer. Finally a black female newsreader appears on the TV, this already indicates how BL istrying to change people view of Shakespeare, as in Shakespearean times women weren’t allowed to perform let alone black women, so this shows howBL telling the audience what he doing and how he is changing the face ofShakespeare. The camera starts to slowly creep towards the presenter on thetelevision as she begins reading the prologue. Once she has finished thecamera suddenly moves very fast into the T.V past the report and onto ashot of Verona and the statue at the centre of town it the camera continuesits fast approach cutting to shots of battle and characters as it reachesits destination, and once it has made it to the head of the statue theprologue begins once more.

    During the short amount of time from the end ofthe first prologue and the beginning of the second several things are shown to us, the police helicopters, the gun battles, the buildings, Verona, allof which will be in the play at some point in the film. This tells us notonly what is to come, which is a visual connection to the prologue, but italso shows what great and terrible things can happen in a very short spaceof time, which in some respects is what the play is about. The prologue in Shakespearean times was a means to one calm the audiencedown because in those days the poorest would stand at the bottom next thestage in the mud, they would often be load, violent, and would need a meansto be reminded to shut up and start watching the play and the prologuewould be the que for that. The second reason for the prologue would be togive the often non-educated audience a clue to what would happen during theplay so would get disinterested and give up.

    The prologue now begins again with much the same idea, short shots thevarious scenes of battle, power, and love, with a gruff distinguished malevoice this time that many would recognise from trailers from other films,accompanying the audio prologue is visual help with bold bright white wordsfrom on a jet black background for a bigger impact. For further visual helpalong with the word its shots from the rest of the film explaining theprologue e.g. when it says ‘two households’ it shows two families side byside and then it cuts to two buildings with the words ‘Capulet’ topping onein bight striking letters and to second building of topped with the word’Montague’ in similarly bright letters. Aside from the distinguished voice, the impressive camera work, andstriking worded a complement for those hard of hearing is the music andsound effects.

    The music and the sound effects are the single most powerfulsubject in this prologue because without the sound the prologue would benothing, it can add drama, love, anger, and can often stir people to tearsand therefore it is often the main ingredient for the perfect film e.g. Unchained melody in ghost, Aerosmith in Armageddon, and the Shaft themetune. All of these songs have made the films famous and therefore the musicis often one of the most important key features to any film. So thereforethe reason this prologue is so hard hitting and powerful is because of themusic.

    The visual effect is of coarse are very important as well and for playit is one of the real quality aspects of the prologue, the angles and shotsnot only illustrate what is to come but it also give maybe a mediocaprologue a real sense of excitement and power. The quick shots showing gunbattle, love scenes, and rivalry give the audience a snippet of what’s tocome and audience is ends up longing for more. In some ways this prologueis more like a trailer. The fast edits, the close ups, the long shots, thesound effects, and the aerial sots all add to the thrill and suspense ofthe movie.

    The other main reason why the prologue and the whole film was a successwas its relevance to modern day. Before people believed that Shakespearewas irrelevant to today’s world but BL brings these old fashioned ideas andprove the sceptics wrong and using a modern day setting young fresh up andcoming actors and actresses and replacing sword and horses with guns andcars BL creates and modern master piece from a classic masterpiece. Insteadof changes the script and plot BL just opens people eyes by putting intosetting they can relate to and therefore letting see that this story is atale that every one can relate to in the right setting.

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