Marisol Calzada: Notes Reflection

Note taking for me has always been fairly difficult. In grade school I always struggled with finding a note taking style that worked for me; I remember using a different style of note taking every month along with different pens, highlighters, tabs, etc. Nothing seemed to work until I got into university. University courses made me realize that not only am I a visual learner, but I learn and remember best through repetition.

For me note taking had been very traditional, using a notebook and a pen; recently I started taking notes on my iPad Pro and it’s been working so well for me because I can split the screen between my note taking app and other resources I’m using. In this class I have found that my note taking has changed throughout the semester. At first I would write down everything that was on the powerpoint slides shown in class, and as the course progressed I learned how to decipher the notes and jot down the most important points presented.

Annotating on an iPad

Taking notes while reading a Shakespeare play-text is a little more challenging for me. I can’t read the text like I normally would a book and that frustrates me. I have to break the text down into sections – usually by the characters dialogue. After I break the text down, I read it “normally” the first time and then again a second time trying to understand the overall meaning of the passage. After I grasped the vague understanding of the passage, I like to paraphrase in regular English. Then I go line by line highlighting-underlining anything I believe is important to the passage. I start by mapping out the rhythm of the lines, and then I start circling ”hidden” things like alliterations, assonances, repetitions, etc. or other writing techniques Shakespeare has used. This type of reading takes me a long time because I feel like Shakespeare’s writing has a lot of hidden elements that require more than just imagination and literacy. By the time I am done with the passage, there are circles, lines, arrows, and writing all over it. For some it may seem like there is an excess of writing on it, but like I previously mentioned, I’m a visual learner and all the writing helps me keep my ideas and thoughts organized.

Taking notes on a film is a very different experience for me. Like most people, when I watch a movie I want to enjoy it rather than take notes on it; but on the occasion that I have to write annotations I start by reading a synopsis of the movie so I know what the general plot is about. When it comes to Shakespeare storylines in films, I like to understand how the characters are connected to each other; this helps to understand the plot. I tend to pay too much attention to the film and forget to write notes, so I make “mental notes” about scenes that I believe are important. The music in the movie helps me determine which scenes are more important than others because music guides our emotions. After I watch the movie and I have a good understanding of the plot, I can go back and find a specific scene and pause/rewind it if I need to analyze it a bit more.

If I ever need to compare a play-text and a film of the play, I always start by annotating the play-text first and then I will watch the movie. By annotating the play-text first, I am able to dissect the meaning of the texts while imagining the story line in my head. I believe that’s what helps me decipher the differences the director makes in the film because I have already created “a film” of my own in my head and if it doesn’t match up then the differences stick out to me.

I know my annotations have been successful if I can paraphrase the play-text/film to another person, or if I can have an in-depth discussion about the play-text/film. I believe more times out of none, my play-text annotations are more successful because I have the ability to reread and “marinate” my brain in the words that are right in front of me, which give me the liberty to go at my own pace. Film annotations are more difficult because the pace of the story-line is much faster and frequently pausing the film can take away from the experience the director intended his audience to have.

Jordin Cummings: Film Review

In this fantastical version of “Romeo + Juliet” Baz Luhrmann keeps the text almost exact but sets the movie in a version of modern days. It is a version of modern days due to the weird mix up Luhrmann has going on. There is slo-motion, increases in time, weird outfits for the Montagues, plus an introduction to a crazy party with pressed pills. This blog post will discuss how Luhrmann adapts the visuals to the text to create a very interesting take on “Romeo and Juliet”.

In Act II Scene II, Luhrmann chooses to shoot the balcony scene in a pool-house. Luhrmann cuts a lot of text in this scene and instead shoots a close up kissing scene with uplifting music. This creates a more sexually charged atmosphere due to the lack of talking and added silky touching. It is clear these teens share a higher level of intimacy even though they just met at a party for what basically amounts to ‘7 minutes in heaven’ but in an elevator. Leonardo DiCaprio shows his take on Romeo as headstrong and carefree when he goes about shouting lines even though they could get caught. Luhrmann gives a true ode to Shakespeare when Claire Danes, Juliet, goes back up to her balcony and DiCaprio climbs the trellis to give her a final kiss.

Nurse in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” is presented as much more personable and definite comic relief. Moving away from the orchard in Act II Scene V of Shakespeare, Luhrmann chooses to make the setting Nurse’s apartment. This allows the relationship between Juliet and Miriam Margolyes, Nurse, to be presented as far more intimate. Nurse ends up being more of a companion than a keeper. Danes gets right behind Margolyes to give her a massage showing their more personal take on the relationship of these two women. Margolyes is a very comical actor with exaggerated facial expressions and a very stereotypical, overly caring, Latina mama attitude. Margolyes clearly does not believe Nurse to be a prude in any way.

In contrast to Act II, which stays fairly true to Shakespeare’s timeline, Act III has been split up to create more drama around Mercutio’s death. Instead of killing Mercutio right away, DiCaprio spirals out and gets into a game of chicken which causes Tybalt to crash his car. Only after all of this and many shouted and repeated lines does DiCaprio finally shoot Tybalt. This part of the movie is cut with part of what is Act III Scene II in the play where Danes gives a bit of a monologue professing love for Romeo. This interjection of joy makes the shooting of Tybalt by Romeo more intense since Juliet’s love just killed her cousin. The music is biblical and epic or brooding and almost silent making Act III far less comical and considerably more dark than Act II.

In the end I cannot tell if I love or hate this movie. It reminds me of “Idiocracy” crossed with the part in “Back to the Future” where they actually go to the future meets “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. It is definitely weird. Not to mention the use of Shakespeare’s text in a modern setting is also odd. At the same time, Luhrmann manages to stay kind of true to Shakespeare in a really weird way. The use of such young actors and Nurse being so approachable, as well as Friar Laurence being so cool with his huge back tattoo of a cross, adds an appeal to my more contemporary tastes. It is one of those movies you would have to watch at least twice to know how you really feel.

 

Works Cited

Romeo + Juliet. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Miriam Margolyes, Twentieth Century Fox, 1996.

Luhrmann, Baz. “Romeo + Juliet (3/5) Movie CLIP – 1,000 Times Goodnight (1996) HD.” Youtube, uploaded by Movieclips, 9 October 2015, youtu.be/Oic7kJRg_F0?t=1m50s.

Hilary James: Film Review

Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996) is a witty, heartfelt rendition of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. Nunn brought the story to life through excellent casting, giving the audience background information, and physical closeness to the characters.

The true highlight of the film for me was watching Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia and Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario bring their characters to life in a somehow comical, yet relatable way. Cesario’s hilariously frustrated attempts to avert Olivia’s ardent affection was a joy to watch. Bonham Carter gives an authentic performance of the almost irrational passion for Cesario, and even her sudden reversal of love towards Sebastian is believable. Nunn makes use of a short voiceover to give us insight into Olivia’s mind as she first falls for Cesario, which quickly turns into her speaking aloud to herself- but sets up the idea that we are listening in on her thoughts.

Nunn’s rendition of Twelfth Night for the screen had many advantages- one of which being that the audience can truly view and understand the backstory behind the text. Most pointedly, the very first scene not only sets up Viola and Sebastian’s loving relationship, but explicitly shows us the events (a shipwreck) that would have happened before the first act. It also sets up Feste as a sort of observer and narrator of the action as he watches afar from a cliff. Secondly, the audience truly gets a sense of the effort behind Viola’s transformation into a man by having scenes of her cutting her hair, binding her breasts, stuffing her pants, and pasting on a moustache both at the beginning and later on in the film as a reminder of her daily struggle. Even a scene showing Viola hastily remove a man’s hands from her hidden breasts reveals her constant danger of being revealed. Thirdly, the arrival of Sebastion is foreshadowed in a flash forward of him alive in the sea, preparing the audience for a change of events.

Another decision that Nunn made, and that the medium of film allowed, was the arrangement of scenes and cuts back and forth between the action in order to give a sense of real time. The different shots allowed the audience to see characters reactions in real time (such as when Sir Toby and Sir Andrew watch their prank on Malvolio unfold in the hedges), and builds tension as we see events unfold in different places at the same time.

I found that Nunn makes special use of the physical closeness that the camera offers to characters. Specifically, he builds palpable tension between Viola (as Cesario), and Orsino in instances such as the bathtub scene. The tender nature of Viola washing her master’s back reveals her desire for him, and her inner struggle to remain in disguise. They are often in close physical proximity, speaking mere inches from each others face. Because of this, I could feel the danger of Viola being revealed, her inner desire and struggle, and his confusion at their obvious (potentially romantic) connection.

Finally, Nunn builds a beautiful reunion between brother and sister through use of camera, music, acting, and backstory. As previously mentioned, Viola and Sebastion’s relationship is established in the first scene- making their reunion emotional and believable. His use of camera and editing keeps brother and sister in separate frames in distant shots as they first see each other- emphasizing the distance and separation the two have faced. Gradually, the shots move closer so we can see the emotional reactions of the actors, but there is still a sense of distance as they are kept in separate frames. This, to me, represented their hesitance to accept the reunion as real, in case they be disappointed. Finally, as the music builds, and the camera moves right up to their teary eyed faces, they embrace in a heartfelt conclusion to the homecoming.

I did not find Nunn’s direction to be revolutionary, the use of the camera was fairly standard (no extreme close up’s, minimal use of the camera as a character, etc.), and he kept fairly true to Shakespeare’s original text (there were large dialogue cuts of course, but the important plot points remained). He didn’t make special use of location shooting; there were minimal sets, some outdoor shots, nothing particularly grand or elaborate. However, this did not take away anything from the film for me, as I found the film’s greatest assets to be its homeliness and it’s wit.

Zhen Deng: Film Review

foreshadowing

Baz Luhrmann makes excellent interpretive choices to emphasize the importance of fate in his 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Through some may cite its deviations from the original Shakespearean text as demerits, overall, Luhrmann’s use of scenery and film technique to emphasize the importance of fate in his film strongly overcomes any of the film’s shortcomings.

Baz Luhrmann does a great job of emphasizing the role of fate through the introduction of Mercutio in act 1 scene 4. This is achieved by juxtaposing Mercutio’s initial joking attitude with the final seriousness of his Queen Mab speech. Through the use of film technique, a monologue that could be cast aside as random and humorous becomes weighty and serious. Appearing in a short white dress, an overtly fake white wig, and lipstick, Mercutio is initially presented as outgoing character with a wild streak. His initial exchanges with Romeo are light and joking. During these exchanges, the camera alternates between shots of Romeo and Mercutio’s faces. This, along with the director’s choice of high-spirited music, create the initial friendly, humorous atmosphere of the scene.

Suddenly, the high-spirited music stops as Mercutio begins to give his famous “Queen Mab” speech. The speech begins light and humorous as Mercutio describes Queen Mab, a character of folklore and children’s tales. As he begins his speech, the music starts out quiet and mysterious, befitting the subtlety and complexity of the powerful fairy queen. Suddenly, there is a shift in music as Mercutio describes how Mab “driveth o’ a soldier’s neck, and he dremercutio-agitatedams of cutting foreign throats.” The tone has become dark, ominous, and dangerous. Mercutio becomes more and more upset as he describes Queen Mab until he ends his speech with a feral scream. Considering how agitated the previously easy-going Mercutio is directed to become, viewers understand that his speech is not quite as simple as it may appear to be. Upon further inspection, Queen Mab seems comparable to fate – Something that controls “dreamers” and plants horrendous ideas into their minds. Perhaps Mercutio sees that all “dreamers,” including he and Romeo, are controlled by powers beyond their control, and that their “dreams” will end in tragedy, just as the dreams of the soldier and virgin did. Overall, Luhrmann’s interpretation of Mercutio’s Queen Mab monologue lean heavily away from silly, ecstasy-crazed words towards foreshadowing and introducing the importance of uncontrollable fate.

romeo-disbelief

Similarly, act 1 scene 5, in where Romeo and Juliet discover one another’s identities, also emphasizes the theme of uncontrollable fate. While the original Shakespeare text has Romeo and Juliet discover each other’s identities physically apart, Luhrmann chooses to have the two discover this in sight of one another. Though this deviation from the original text may be noted as a demerit by some critics, by changing his interpretation, Luhrmann is able to use specific shots involving Romeo and Juliet to better emphasize the helplessness Romeo and Juliet feel as a result of uncontrollable fate. The slow zoom out on the high angle shot of Romeo at the bottom of the staircase represents the distance he feels from Juliet. Luhrmann’s choice to position Juliet at the top of the staircase shows Romeo’s new perception of Juliet; she is a target high above his reach – Another lost love. Long, lingering reaction shots of Romeo and Juliet doing nothing but staring at each other in shock disbelief seem to further emphasize the role of fate in this play – Characters cannot control their own fate, they can only watch while realization of their terrible fate slowly dawns on them.

scene

The theme of uncontrollable fate reoccurs in act 5 scene 1. The outskirts of Verona Beach, where Romeo sits in exile, waiting for news of Juliet, are dusty, dry, and yellowing. The choice of the setting’s scenery creates a strong sense of isolation. The scenery, paired with shots of Romeo’s inaction at the time of Balzehar’s arrival, seems to emphasize the fact that Romeo’s fate is now completely out of his hands. By manipulating the scenery of act 5 scene 1, Luhrmann again masterfully highlights the importance of fate in his interpretation Romeo and Juliet.

In his 1996 interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann masterfully utilizes setting and film technique and to emphasize the importance of fate. Though his film adaptation is by no means perfect, Luhrmann’s use of setting and film technique to emphasis the importance of fate in his film is extremely well done.