Baz Luhrmann 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, simply titled Romeo + Juliet, is definitely an interesting take on the play. The film, which set in Verona Park State, is a modernize take on the popular play about love and tragedy. Luhrmann casted actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes to be his Starr-crossed lovers. Now if you were expecting men in tights and soft violin music playing in the background, you are in for a surprise. Everything about the film screams 21st century. To make the film more relatable, the director made everything too loud, too flashy, and too fast.
Right from the beginning, Luhrmann wants us to be prepared for the tragedy that will unfold. His opening scene is a simple television screen on a black backdrop of a news anchor reporting on the death of the children of feuding families of Capulet and Montague. Then the director flash cuts through everything that leads up to the tragic incident with a montage and very loud music.
Throughout the film the director set the tone of different scenes with very dramatic climate changes. I think one of the most pivotal scenes was when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt killed Romeo’s best friend Mercutio. You could feel Romeo’s anguish at the injustice and loss of his good friend. The sky got dark, you could hear thunder clapping in the background, and then it starts raining. The music got progressively louder and more manic the closer Romeo gets to Tybalt.
I remember the first I watched this film and how much I enjoyed it. It seemed so far removed from the complicated readings I had to do for my 9th grade English class. This was something I could relate to. But watching it again with a new set of eyes, more mature eyes, was a new experience. The Shakespearean English that the director and screenplay writer Craig Pearce decided to use made it a bit difficult to follow because of the pace at which the story line progressed. I always wondered why they modernized everything except for the way they spoke. I felt there was disconnect between what my eyes were seeing and what I was hearing. I sometimes felt that this overshadowed the incredible assembly of actors and their talents.