In Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of the famous Shakespearean play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the director takes a modern and edgy spin on the famous love story. Although most people are familiar with the general premise of the play, Shakespearean dialect is often hard to follow. In order to break the barrier between those familiar with the seemingly foreign language and that of the general population, Luhrmann compensates for the difficult script with a clear and dramatic editing style. One tactic that this film relies upon to emphasize the dialog is music. In many of the scenes the soundtrack is directly related to the lines that are being delivered by the actors, and the general meaning behind the scene. With the help of musical director, Nellee Hooper, Luhrmann utilizes music as a powerful tool to enhance the mood and overall atmosphere of his film.
The first soundtrack in the playlist is Garbage’s song, #1 Crush. The erie lyrics of the chorus chant on and on, “I would die for you.” The hauntingly beautiful song summarizes the essence of how Romeo and Juliet feel for one another, along with foreshadowing their eventual fate. The song is strategically placed into Act IV, scene 1. At this point Juliet is hysterical about her unavoidable future of having to wed Paris. She seeks the help of Friar Laurence, and in despair, threatens to take her own life. It is in this scene that the Friar comes up with the dramatic plan to fake Juliet’s death in order to be with Romeo. As emphasized by the song ‘#1 Crush’, it describes how Juliet is literally willing to die for Romeo. It also speaks to their disturbing degree of passionate love for one another. It is almost as if Luhrmann is presenting the view that the love the two share is so strong that it is unhealthy.
Yet another excellent use of soundtrack was the addition of the hit song, “Love Fool”, by the Cardigans. This song is placed in Act 2, scene 4, where the Nurse comes to Romeo with her concerns of his intentions with Juliet. She says to him, “if ye should lead her in a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour, as they say; for the lady is young; and therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an ill thing”. Romeo Calms her by explaining his plan to marry Juliet. Her happiness is accompanied by the lyrics, “love me love me say that you’ll love me, fool me fool me, go on and fool me”. It emphasizes that the nurse’s concerns of Juliet being led into a ‘fools paradise’, are reassured by Romeos promise of commitment and love to Juliet. It also indicates how Romeo truly does not care about anyone but Juliet and his undying love for her. This message is perfectly presented in the lyrics of the song that say, “I don’t care ‘bout anything but you.”
Finally the beautiful song, “I’m Kissing You”, sung by Des’Ree, is played throughout the film in different scenes. The first time the song is heard is Act 1, scene 5. It is here where Romeo and Juliet lay eyes on each other for the first time and share their first kiss. They instantly fall in love, as they see each other. Despite Romeo’s heartache over Rosaline, and Juliet’s concern over her overbearing mother, everything seems to disappear when they see one another. The same phenomenon occurs in Act III, scene 4 (1:16:59), of the film. Romeo has just discovered that he is to be banished from Verona, and Juliet is heartbroken over the fact that her husband has murdered her cousin. However, Romeo comes to see Juliet in her chambers and as they reunite “I”m Kissing You”, is played yet again. As they see and kiss each other, just like the first time they met, everything else disappears and seems to be ok.
Baz Luhmann and Nellee Hooper, had songs constructed and re-edited for the purpose of enhancing Romeo + Juliet’s general accessibility. Luhermann decides to add another layer of poetry into his rendition of the Shakespeare’s play- the poetry of modern song. Each of these songs, speak to the love that is explained in Shakespeare’s original playwright of Romeo and Juliet. However, this modern element successfully works to advance the audience’s understanding of the film, but also adds entertainment value not found in more traditional variations of the film.
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