Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of the opening scene Essay
Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of the opening scene
Concentrating on the presentation of character, setting and sound, analyse review and comment on what seems to you to be significant features of Baz Luhrmann’s style as a film director, with particular reference to “Romeo and Juliet” Baz Luhrmann’s recreation of Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”, as a film text, has been a great success in today’s modern world. Baz Luhrmann’s intentions, in making this film, were to take a classic Shakespearean play (something that not that many ‘young’ people appreciate any more in this modern age) and to modernise it.
To translate the image of what would have been an exciting source of entertainment in the 17th century into a fun filled action/romantic movie suitable for the demanding eyes of the modern world’s youth . Baz Luhrmann had ask himself the question: if Shakespeare were alive today, how would he of made the movie. The expression he uses is ‘putting Shakespeare on a billboard in ‘Time Square’.
The film opens with a picture of a television screen switched off then, with no sound, clicks one with a few credits on the screen as if someone is changing the channel to find something that would interest them then clicks onto this channel with a newsreader reading out what sounds like news but is the prologue of “Romeo and Juliet”. While the newsreader is reading out this in the background in a box, where you would see a picture of a broken wedding band, which symbolises the broken love between Romeo and Juliet.
Then uses a series of camera styles like rapid zoom and whooshing noise as it goes into the image of the newsreader, followed by dramatic music. The images then start ‘whooshing’ onto other similar images of Verona and with this the prologue is repeated by the priest, with a more stern and authentic voice. Then it shows pictures of the cast with information about them. This is the introduction to Baz Luhrmann’s film and with this he catches the viewers attention. He achieves this by giving the viewers a taste of the excitement to come by showing a few short clips of some if the film. This makes them hungry for more.
In the first scene of this recreational play we start off with 3 men from the house of Montague, the ‘Montague Boys’, which we see at the start of the film accompanied with a big title saying: ‘THE MONTAGUE BOYS’ and a rap style song repeating the words: “the boys, the boys”. They are achieving what Shakespeare wanted them to do originally – going around being boisterous and rowdy – but in a modern days style. In the original play the 2 men are just going around a market place showing off Baz Luhrmann pretty much goes along the same line of what happened in the original play but with cars, tall extravagant buildings, helicopters, sirens etc.
Baz Luhrmann puts the Montague’s in a petrol station where they meat up with there rivals the Capulet’s and recreates the confrontations with guns, which just so happen have the brand name of swords, rapiers etc. It’s all very clever if you’ve seen the original play. Even though that Baz Luhrmann has changed the visuals and made the film more modern he hasn’t changed the script he has still kept it in that same Shakespearean tong: “thus, thou hast, knowest, thow etc.
He did this for 2 reasons: 1 because if he didn’t keep the script it would virtually be the same as ‘East side story’ (another recreation of Romeo and Juliet) and 2 to bring a piece of the 17th century and stick it in the film to show people, of the modern world, how Shakespeare made his play. Baz Luhrmann kept the original scripture of the film; he did this so that he still kept the true nature of the play pure. In doing this he had to make the visuals far more stunning, majestic and exaggerated so as to make it so the audience could understand it through the visual image of the film.
The characters in Luhrmann’s films are very exaggerated so by looking at the way they act and speak you can instantly tell what kind of person they are in the film: ‘The bad guy’, ‘the funny guy’, ‘the romantic guy’ etc. For example the two Montague boys are all rough and tough when they are talking behind the Capulets back but when they are face to face with the Capulets they are very jumpy and scared and also very comical at the same time. But the Capulet boys are much more mean and bullish. Abra a big scary looking character who strikes fear into the Montagues he also loses his temper and Tybalt.
Tybalt being the main big bad guy of the film is very harsh and cruel he looks like a big gun slinger. He has a very stylised character – his movement his whole style gives him a great sense of character even by the way that he speaks you know he is the bad guy. The complexity of the sound involved in Baz Luhrmann’s creations is quite fascinating. At any one point in the film there are a lot of sounds being played for all the different types of things, which you can here, even in the simplest scenes.
Many of the sounds are synthesized this means the sounds are created by a computer, this allows the editor to add in and take out sound with ease. You’ll see an image on the screen and will be listening to a complex layering of sounds, which will all be playing at once. For example: footsteps, gunshots, whooshing and cars in the background, dialogue and much more. The music will change to the emotion of the person or the film. If you were to listen to all the sounds individually and added together you would be able to hear how the affects are achieved and see how complicated it actually is.
All the sounds are stored on a sound deck and are then arranged and played at the times required. The film even has its own sound track, which was released into the charts and went number one at one stage or another. People listened to this and were deeply encouraged to go and watch the film because of what they heard from the soundtrack. Sound is used to enhance emotion and interest: the rap style music at the start of the film when the Montague boys are in their car, a ‘cougar roar’ sound is emitted when the car revs its engine (this is used to give a sense of danger) Silence is also used to increase tension.
Exaggerated sounds on small objects are also used for this purpose. Choreography is the word, which means ‘style of the character’ and the movement of the character i. e. the style of the movement given out gives a sense of character. Tybalt’s style is very intriguing in the way that he moves almost like he’s dancing. Tybalt’s movement is meant to be a sort of flamenco dance; he moves very fluently and gives a sense that he is an experienced gun fighter. The part when every thing goes silent and Tybalt comes onto the scene and all you see is boots which then crush on a dropped match and emits that horrible grinding sound.
The way in which Tybalt moves embellishes his character. The Montague boys are very jumpy and scared and react with great movement this is called ‘Pantomimic exaggeration’. In the first scene 170 shots were used. The techniques used in the film were very much the same as the ones used in western films. The film was meant to be in a western genre, a spaghetti western. A spaghetti western is a sought of love story/ western. The camera techniques used in the film are very good at delivering different emotions or to increase/decrease tension.
Big wide shots are less dramatic than the suspension given out by a close up shot. In the first scene there is a large variety of camera styles used, such as when Abra is confronting the Montague boys and the camera suddenly zooms in on his teeth with the word S I N inscribed on them, with camera is looking up at him, this terrifies the Montagues and then causes one of the Montague boys falls back into the car and the camera is looking down on him. When a camera is looking up at a character it is much more scarier than when a camera is looking down upon someone.
Computer aided technology was used to help design the costumes for the characters in the film a photo’s was taken of the actor and the designs where then put on to the computer software to be mapped out and used so they could try samples on the actors to see how it looked and see if they liked it or not, in that context. The Montagues wore bright Hawaiian styled open t-shirts while the Capulets wore flat jackets and darker clothing in a more Latino style. They have also spent a lot of time designing the guns for the films, which symbolize the swords in the original play (that’s why the gun brand is called swords).
You see in the film the two buildings of both Montague and Capulet, this represents the focus on religious iconography shows that religion (the 2 families are both religious families and respect there religious beliefs) and the law are not able to maintain the battle, the confrontation, and the feud between these to households. Miami was used to shoot the film because of its Latino genre and its religious environment hot country- hot blooded. The gas station was used in the film to symbolize modern city life and to keep the scene similar to that of the original play: market square and gas station both places of common publicity.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 September 2017
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