William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet is a 1996 film adaption of William Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. It was directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
The film is an abridged modernization of Shakespeare's play. While it retains the original Shakespearean dialogue, the Montagues and the Capulets are represented as warring business empires and swords are replaced by guns (manufactured by 'Sword').
Semantics is the study of meaning. We study meaning by looking at different signs / signifiers, and examining their relationship to meaning.
The director, Baz Luhrmann, uses a number of different signs / signifiers throughout the movie that firstly, explain the dialogue that we don't understand and secondly, help to bring the play to life in such a way that we can relate to it with our modern day experiences.
Signs like guns and cowboy boots have meaning for us and that's why we can understand the story. Without these signs, we might still have difficulty in imagining Shakespeare's words.
Act 1, Scene 1:
NB: The illustrations do not tell the whole story. There is a LOT more to each answer than what you see in the screenshots!
How does Baz Luhrmann help the viewer to understand the tension between the two families right from the beginning?
List the "modernized signs" given to us in this scene that make the play more relatable.
Why does he zoom in on the name of the gun as they are in the fight scene?
Describe the differences in appearance between the Capulet boys and the Montagues. Why did the director make these differences so obvious?
What signs does Lurhmann use to introduce Romeo for the first time? What impression does this give us of his character?
Act 1, Scene 2:
How does Baz Luhrmann reinvent the interception of the invitation scene? What does he use to convey his message?
In the scene where Romeo confesses his love for Rosaline, what modern signs are we presented with?
Act 1, Scene 3:
How does Luhrmann portray Juliet's mother?
How does Luhrmann introduce Juliet for the first time? What does this tell us about her character?
What characteristics does Nurse show that Juliet's mother lacks? How does Luhrmann convery this?
Act 1, Scene 4:
How does Luhrmann portray Mercutio? Why do you think he chose a black actor to play the role of Mercutio?
Comment on the music in this scene.
Why does Luhrmann choose to use drugs in this scene? What meaning do you think he is trying to convey with this sign?
Why does Luhrmann choose to make the Capulet party a costume party instead of a masked ball?
Comment on the costumes chosen for Romeo and Juliet.
What is the significance of Romeo sticking his head in the water before seeing Juliet for the first time?
Comment on the use of the elevator in this scene.
How is a director able to convey emotions he interprets from the text without changing the script?
What impression do we have of Paris at the end of this scene?
How does Luhrmann give us this impression?
Act 2, Scene 1:
Explain how Luhrmann portrays the famous "balcony scene" differently from how it is traditionally performed?
What modern signs are there in this scene?
How does Luhrmann show that Romeo and Juliet are simply young and in love?
Act 3, Scene 1:
How does Luhrmann 'bring to life' the hatred Tybalt feels for Romeo during this scene?
Why does Romeo refuse to fight Tybalt? How does Luhrmann make Romeo seem peaceful and content?
Comment on the scenery / weather as Mercutio shouts "a plague on both your houses".
Comment on the scenery, music and appearance of Romeo after Mercutio dies.
How does Luhrmann make Romeo seem capable of murder? How has his appearance changed from earlier in the scene?
Act 5, Scene 3:
How does Luhrmann go 'off script' in the suicide scene?
Why do you think he chose to do so and what effect does it have on the movie?
What else do you think Luhrmann could have done to modernize this scene without losing the classic nature of the tragedy?
Comment on the character of Prince in the last part of the scene.
How does Luhrmann show us that the two families are going to make peace with each other or that they seem to have learned their lesson without them having to say anything?
Use of Media:
Discuss the effectiveness of Luhrmann using the media to deliver certain messages to the audience during the movie.
Why does he choose to have the TV news reporter present during the prologue as well as Prince's final speech?
Comment on the woman chosen to be the presenter.
Did you think that the fading out of the TV was an effective ending to the movie? Why / why not?
How else could Luhrmann have ended the movie?
Music and Scenery:
Did you recognize any of the bands or singers in the movie?
How does music affect a movie?
Would the movie have been more or less effective using music from Elizabethan times?
What song would you have chosen for the scene where Romeo and Juliet die?
Do you notice the music playing in the background when you're watching a movie?
Why do you think Luhrmann chose to retain the original dialogue instead of using modern dialogue?
Do you think he made a good choice? Why?
Would modern dialogue have added to or detracted from the original story written by Shakespeare?
Why are we able to understand dialogue in the movie that we might not understand when reading the play?
How does the director use visuals to help us understand meaning of the text and themes of the play?
Love it or Hate it?
What did you think of the movie? Write a movie review of Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo and Juliet in which you comment on its entertainment value and effectiveness. (200-250 words)
14 February 1997 - that was a sad day for the world. It suffered a great loss. The loss of one of its great film directors. On the 14th February 1997 Baz Luhrmann died, or at least his reputation did.
The monster responsible? William Shakespear's Romeo+Juliet.
Perhaps we can blame the trends of that time. Perhaps Luhrmann was having a bad day. There is a chance he was going through a psychotic break. Who knows?
Whatever the reason, I'm sure Luhrmann regretted ever getting out of bed that day. I certainly regretted getting out of bed the day I watched it! I had to sit through a tortuous hour-and-a-half. Why bother? There's a five letter word that provides a perfect summary: "corny".
The idea was right, we can give Luhrmann credit for that. But, in practice, it all went horribly wrong! From over-the-top beach boys to testosterone-pumping Mexicans. From philandering fathers to drag queens.
His attempt to attract a young audience ruined the tragic, romantic, serious, tense and true mood of the play. It took away from the true sense of Shakespeare's original intentions for this artwork. This wouldn't have been such a problem if we hadn't received so many mixed signals from the director! Is it meant to be his personal interpretation, or is he staying true to the original?
The single positive note was that I found myself sub-consciously picking up on Luhrmann's very detailed, well thought out visual hints. It certainlyassisted me in understanding some of Shakespeare's thoughts!
Rest in peace Reputation-of-Baz-Luhrmann, rest in peace.
William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann, is a successful attempt to modernize one of Shakespeare's best known love stories.
His use of modern signs, settings and props whilst retaining the original Shakespearean script was simply genius!
Juliet (Claire Danes) was perfectly portrayed as the simple, natural, youthful love interest. Her love for Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio), the poetic romantic, is forbidden because of a long family feud.
In order to successfully modernize the movie without altering the original script, Luhrmann introduced sex, drugs and rock-n-roll into the movie. This gave the film a more contemporary feel and made it more believable.
The prologue, which could have failed terribly, didn't. Instead, it proved very effective and almost futuristic.
On a negative note, the infamous "balcony scene" was drastically transformed with the introduction of a swimming pool! The seemingly forgotten balcony was left to dwindle in the background. I applaud Luhrmann for his unique attempt however, the classic essence was just not there and left me slightly disappointed.
In conclusion, it was a fabulous movie and I thoroughly recommend it.