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,

Act 2, Scene 2; Romeo & Juliet 1968 and 1996

     Romeo and Juliet is truly a classic play written by Shakespeare. That is part of the reason I chose to compare the act 2, scene 2 in the films that were made by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 and also the newer version of Romeo and Juliet made by Baz Luhrmann in 1996. The other part of the reason I chose to analyze it was because I have seen and read the play. The two scenes obviously have the exact same concept behind them, yet they were executed in two extremely different ways. There are certain styles and details, beyond the very contrasting setting that the two directors chose that set the directors and scenes apart. Zeffirelli uses elaborate and over the top acting in order to portray the scene in a heart wrenching love story type of way. While Luhrmann uses a modern-day touch of comedy and a very eerie water setting to enhance the sense of urgency that is in the air while the two lovebirds meet. Both directors execute act 2 scene 2 fairly well, however Luhrmann transports the classic play to a familiar setting in order to have it relate to a modern-day audience, thus in my opinion he did it right.

     The settings of each individual film were very specific. Each setting was pivotal in the rest of the directing decisions. Luhrmann could not have made his film theatrical in the same way that Zeffirelli executed his film with elaborate acting and classical landscapes. This is possibly why Luhrmann chose to have it in a modern-day setting. The Verona beach setting enable the classical play to take on a modern-day touch that would easily relate to people in the 1960’s and also today. During the first part of this scene Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Romeo is seen fumbling over patio furniture and causing a ruckus while attempting to utter his “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,”(2.2.2-3) line this is only possible because of the choice to have props that tie in with his desired setting of the film. Zeffirelli chose the classical setting that was used to speak to the original context of the play. By having the feuding families and love bird set in the 1300’s the castles and balls and elaborate theater type acting all fits together. When Leonard Whiting is saying the exact same “but soft!” line he is sneaking through the bushes, this creates an entirely different feel for the viewer. The viewer is given a quaint teenage feel that is wrapped in a ‘medieval cloak’.

     Juliet plays a crucial role in this particular scene. Her acting either makes or break the scene. In the movie directed by Zeffirelli, Olivia Hussey who plays Juliet over does the acting. She is so elaborate, awkward and over directed. Her actions are unnatural, she takes unnecessarily long pauses and she looks as if she is forcing her love for Romeo. Hussey’s “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name,”(2.2.33-34) illustrates exactly how there is no girl on this planet who would ever use facial expressions to that extent while talking to herself alone on her balcony no mater how in love she is.

In the movie directed by Luhrmann, although it is more modern, the acting by
Claire Danes is relaxed and natural. She is able to portray her love for Romeo simply by whispering the exact same “O Romeo” line and all the while keeping her body language calm.

The acting plays an enormous role in the film and the acting by Claire Danes was simply superior.

     Both of the directors generate emotions from their respective takes on this particular scene. Luhrmann’s seamlessly humorous pool scene ties in the Verona beach star-crossed lovers idea perfectly, while on the other hand, Zeffirelli’s 1300’s overprocessed backyard teenage love scene over plays the importance of the feelings and urgency, thus ruining it.
Reilly Kruger

Works Cited and Sources:

Zeffrelli Romeo and juliet 1968—
1996 Romeo and Juliet viewed on

Luhrmann 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Web.
Shakespeare Text

Note Reflection

By Amanda Faller

Over my years in school, I have experimented with many ways to take notes, even using methods such as the Cornell system (link). However, time and again I always come back to the plain and simple lined notebook and just write what I think is important out. For films I write frantically trying to keep my eye on the screen, however you can see a distinct difference in my close-reading notes.

Close Reading Notes

Close Reading Notes – Brain Dump on Page Right

For my close reading I decided to use two different pen colours to help my eye stay focused. I used black ink to paraphrase the speech in my own words. In green ink I took phrases and words I was unfamiliar with and defined them as they appeared in the speech. I gave the black ink to the paraphrasing so it would stand out and I could read it easily.

Then, in the margins I divided the notes into parts with brackets and labels of “part 1” and so on. I underlined the important phrases at each part beginning to bring attention to them so I could later form an argument around it.

For phrases that stood out to me for their symbolism or function, I also wrote in the margins, such as “simile” “pun?”, “metaphor” and “summary”. Breaking the speech into parts let my mind focus on one section at a time without becoming distracted or off topic by the surrounding lines.

Then on the next page I “brain dumped” my opinions, observations and arguments in preparation for my essay. Overall, I think this system of note taking was very effective for myself, and helped me fully understand the speech and get the best grade I could for me. I especially like the colour coding, as it’s visually nice as well as functional.

While I was creating these notes I had my computer open with OED and my book of Henry V. Although some people think books are to use and abuse, I love a fresh, clean book with perfectly flat pages so I stay away from marking my books.

Film Review Notes

Film Review Notes

I also wrote a review on Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann. For this, I had the film going and my notebook open. These are the messiest notes I have because the film is so fast paced. Sometimes I would rewind the film and watch back something if I missed a detail. For each new point I drew a dash to help me later see the order of things so it wasn’t just a blob of words. Some of these notes have no real meaning however they helped recall certain ideas or visuals when I wrote my review. I found myself writing down small details such as “editing quickens” and “shadow over face”. Those were the details I decided to go with for the film review. They helped me dig deeper into the filmic choices of the director rather than more obvious things (such as “gun instead of dagger”).

In the margins I have arrows and brackets to connect separate ideas to help me find patterns or even to just elaborate on a thought.

For some concepts, instead of describing them in words, I found it quicker to jot a small doodle of what I meant. On the second page I drew out a frame composition I found striking as well as Juliet’s eyes later on in the frame

Interesting frame composition sketches

Interesting frame composition sketches


Slowly my writing becomes more illegible as I was seeing more interesting things to take note of. For this particular note set I decided to just jot ideas to help me remember later. In fact, I hardly used these notes while writing my review because I did it right after watching the film and my thoughts were still fresh. Perhaps if I wrote it another day these notes would become more meaningless as they are vague and messy. This note style is, I think, appropriate for watching a film, and they also helped me quite a bit in getting the best mark I personally could.
In my opinion it would be impossible to do the same note style for a close reading and a film review. However each note styles have their pros and cons. For example, the close reading notes are very clear and organized, yet lots of the actual “arguments” came only when I “brain dumped” later on. No real ideas or arguments came in the beginning stages of these notes. The opposite can be said for the film review notes. They are unorganized (other than chronologically) and are made purely of ideas and arguments. I am glad I have experimented earlier in my life with different note taking habits to help me today in finding the best way to do it for different situations.