In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 remake of the classic tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, he uses the mixture of modern setting and Shakespeare’s language to create a movie that makes Shakespeare accessible to a new generation. Luhrmann’s film is filled with themes of destiny and the inevitability of the lover’s tragic end. The first example of the destined tragedy of their story is in the opening of the movie.
Luhrmann opens the film with a news report about Romeo and Juliets tragic ending. This use of having the narrative start at the end of the story before it cuts back to events as they take place add to that sense of inevitability. The audience gets a sense that the ending is already set, that it is unchangeable, and we are just seeing the events that lead to that destined end. Another perfect example of this is the scene of Romeo and Juliets’s first kiss in the elevator.
In this scene as Luhrmann cuts between Juliet in Romeos embrace and then Juliet’s mother it illustrates Juliet’s fear at being seen by her mother but she is unwilling to remove herself from his embrace. It shows that just as their love is destined so too is this first kiss destined and they are both powerless to stop it. As their first embrace is interrupted and they learn of each others families this symbolizes the inevitability of the tragic end to the story of their love. Another scene which adds to the audience’s sense that this tragic end is unavoidable is Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.
In this scene Romeo comes upon his love’s apparent dead body and ingests poison to join her slumber. As he is getting ready to take the poison Luhrmann cuts between him and shots of Juliet stirring. If Romeo would only look down he could see her moving and the tragedy could be avoided. He doesn’t see her movement however and he takes the poison just as Juliet wakes up and Juliet is forced to watch him die. As Juliet then takes up Romeo’s gun to join him the film is silent. The only sound is Juliet’s sobs and the click of the gun being readied to fire. In this scene the audience is holding their breath, willing the outcome to change, and the silence of the scene represents that. The gunshot is the audience releasing that held breath as the destined, tragic end comes to it’s fateful conclusion.