Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the classic Romeo and Juliet is set in 2 vastly differing times; the language of Shakespearian era in contrast to a much more modern set and city. The use of Shakespearean language gives a sense of timelessness; that the time it takes place is irrelevant; it can happen any time, any where, to any people, and this is what matters. It addresses a young adult audience, who are familiar with both the situations which arise and the pop-like video style of shooting, with the fairly pacey storyline.
At the very beginning of the film, there is a vague sense of mystery given by the fuzzy sounds of the TV tuning in. we are not entirely sure of what we are going to see, and so the tuning in of the TV represents how we are trying to grasp the story, trying to latch on to what is happening around us. We see the black and white screen with the noise of no reception just before the newsreader appears on the screen, and so we anticipate that what we are about to hear will be important, or worth waiting for.
We relate it to how we feel when we are waiting for the news to come on, and so the way that the story is presented; as the focus of a news report and the distinct tuning in of the viewer, means we expect the story to affect us. The way in which this introduction is presented sets its status to us. Its obvious sense of importance and slight air of tragedy contributes discretely to the overall atmosphere the audience feels at the beginning of this film. The television set is placed in the middle of the screen, and all around it is plain blank blackness.
Since the focus is on the TV in the centre, the viewer doesn’t consciously notice the black background. This is deliberate to keep the attention on the screen, which mirrors the importance of this story and this news item. The fact that one barely notices the presence of the background emphasises the dominance this story has on one’s thoughts, but all this is in the back of one’s mind, so does not consciously add to the atmosphere one feels as a viewer. It only adds on to the overall feel.
In the corner of the newsreader’s setting, the image chosen is that of a broken ring. This represents to us one of the key elements of the story; symbols of unity, split. The ring is a wedding ring, we later find out, and so we transfer this image not to a broken marriage, but to one that was split. We know the story of Romeo and Juliet to be one of truly strong love, and so the image of the ring doesn’t represent divorce. It represents a marriage broken against its will, and so the already subconscious feeling of tragedy to be expected is reinforced by this image.
During this shot, the camera slowly and gradually zooms in on the TV set, and so the TV set gradually fills up more and more of the space in the screen, pushing the black back ground out. It is to convey the idea of slowly getting drawn into the story, how the viewer’s focus eventually rotates entirely around this news item. It mirrors how we can sometimes feel that when someone is talking to us they seem far away, how their words seem distant. It makes the viewer feel like this story relates to them, how distant sounds become common ground.
The overall feeling this aspect of the shot gives of is that of involvement. It makes the audience anticipate once more that this story will affect them as an individual. As the beginning sequence takes off into a rapid Rolla coaster of images, the music and atmosphere take on an entirely different tone. It goes from one of casual, and maybe more intense interest, to one of extreme excitement and tension. This is due partly to the speed of the shots and their content, but mostly because of the music and the ideas and images it puts across.
The music portrays the idea of overwhelming emotion above all. It is extremely dramatic in its use of emotion, and the power and energy you feel from it. The high pitch of both the piano chords and vocal harmonies give an idea of excitement and speed, and the classical element to it, the traditional instruments and ensemble, give the idea of depth, meaning and sophistication. The high tempo of the piece as it climaxes towards the end increases with the pitch, representing how the power and the emotion and the intensity all build up together.
It creates a very powerful, impacting atmosphere of emotion â€“ be that of love, loss, finality, deep influence, realisation, accomplishment, indomitable spirit, excitement, violence, downfall, dependency or redemption. There are countless feelings the music could bring out in you, and so the medium of music is perfect for this effect because it is so widely interpretable, you can have all of these feelings at once, and so you are overwhelmed by emotion â€“ emotion you felt from this film, and so you anticipate that you could feel overwhelmed again in this film, or that characters will be.
When the piece does climax, it then abruptly subsides, and the film titles and quiet remain. The lead up to the names “Romeo and Juliet” give you a sense of the strength of their presence. It’s as if there is this huge mountain of things going on, all the things we have just seen and heard in the rush of the previous sequence, simply come down to these four words: “Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet”. It is mostly dark, night shots, and so the air of mystery resumes, and we get the idea of “shadowy” goings on.
It is natural to associate dark feelings with dark nights, and so sad atmospheres with darkness. The feeling is given that maybe it won’t be a happy film. The audience are quite unsure of what to expect, as darkness can also be associated with excitement, and “after dark” activity. So again, moods are split, and the audience is intrigued and very curious about what is to come. The other lighting effects that stand out to the audience are the bright flashing lights. The two main sources of bright flashing lights are the lights of emergency service vehicles, and the bright lights of Vegas.
These are two very similar yet contrasting ideas â€“ that of danger of safety, and the thrill and excitement of the danger seen in casino life. We see brief characterisations of main composites in the film, mainly the relations of our two main characters â€“ Romeo and Juliet. These freeze-frames are usually taken from later periods of the film, when a lot has happened. The characters often look menacing or anxious. We see a brief window into what is to come, and we see the faces of highly-strung, grieving and on edge characters, all of who appear to be close to either Romeo or Juliet.
When we see these traits in the people of the story, we combine these new characteristics to the atmosphere created previously, and later it is added to the atmosphere yet to come, and our atmosphere of danger and excitement becomes one of ominous emotion. This foreboding feeling is the product of the things that have just flashed before our senses; the power, the emotion, the excitement, the danger and the worry. The screen with the titles wipes onto the Montague boys speeding down a highway, wearing loud Hawaiian shirts and brave hairstyles. They are jumping about, very over-excited, playing loud music and yelling a lot.
The music is very upbeat and rap-like, and associated with carefree youths. The impression is immediately given that these boys are fun loving, arrogant, self assured, confident and aggressive. It is a bright sunny day, and they are in an open top car. It, again, gives that sense of carefree fun, contentment and a completely worry-free atmosphere. The bright colours and the casual dress sense implies all of these things, that they are not afraid to show their true colours, and one has the word “Montague” written on the back of his bald head, which immediately shows his pride and family loyalty.
They offer more relaxed and easygoing prospects than that of the music and images in the previous sequence; however it is possible that their pride and aggression may get the better of them. As the Montague boys party in the car, the camera tracks it from behind. Indeed, most of these shots are close ups, or at least within a few metres of the characters. The viewer feels closer to the action. It makes the audience feel as if they are in the car also, and so the excitement seems more real to them.
The man in the back seat turns around and speaks to the camera with a tone of excitement, and so it feels as if you are in the car and he is talking to you. You share in his excitement and enthusiasm â€“ you share his emotions as if you were a friend in the car with them. This feeling contrasts slightly that of what we have seen before, as it seems so much more social and fun. The audience feels more relaxed and comfortable. The main images used to characterise certain aspects of these characters are the shot of the front of the car, the back of one man’s head, Benvolio’s necklace and the black eye.
The shot of the front of the car is only really relevant and significant when the Capulets arrive, but the tattoo saying “Montague” exemplifies the loyalty a pride the group have to their family name, and equally, Benvolio’s Christ necklace exemplifies loyalty to the church, religion and Christ. This, similarly to the car, is also relevant to the Capulets. The black eye just points out once more that they are very loud, confident and self assured, that they get into brawls and fights, and that we can expect something from them the more calm characters could not offer.
These things just highlight points already in the backs of the minds of the viewers, and strengthen them as composites of the atmosphere being built. Of the combinations of our ominous emotional atmosphere, power, emotion, danger, worry and excitement these images enforce the excitement and the danger sides of the scale. Our first image of the Capulets is their blue car, not dissimilar to that of the Montagues. This echoes the opening words of the play: “two households, both alike in dignity,” how the things they uphold are so alike, yet they cannot get over the grudge.
The other thing that becomes apparent after awhile is the Capulets’ pride in their religion â€“ the same as that of the Montagues. One Capulet has the cross shaved into the back of his head, and Tybalt has a Celtic-style cross on his clothing. We get the impression that their rivalry is misplaced because of their likeness in beliefs, taste and family pride. The first we see of an actual character is the heel of Tybalt’s boot. This indirectly gives us the impression that he is feared and respected, as if it is no coincidence that the viewer who recently felt to be a Montague is at the feet of their enemy.
We also get the idea of Tybalt’s strength of presence by the obvious intimidation felt by the Montagues. The man who first spots Tybalt is completely terrified, and the camera catches this with a close up of his face, like he’s realises how real this actually is. Because the Capulets seem so menacing and sinister, the audience are feeling what the Montagues feel; timid and frightened. It leaves them unsure of what they are now expecting, because of the more vulnerable side on the Montagues they have just seen in contrast to the previous images of them.
The Capulets seem particularly menacing due to the camera shots. It is shown clearly that they are superior when a close shot of the silver teeth with the word “sin” imprinted on them is shown. It highlights individual characteristics of his personality, and the snarl increases the menace he already displays. When Tybalt is speaking, there is no sound, apart from a faint whistle of the wind. The petrol station is in fact by a main road, but still no noise. This keeps the focus on the words he is mouthing, making it seem more powerful.
It also is a discrete reference to the Spaghetti Westerns, with the traditional sounds of the wind whistling. We are seeing this shot mainly from the perspective of the Montagues, and so when we hear Tybalt’s voice so clearly, it seems that this is so significant it actually drowns out the noises of the city. The fact the wind remains implies that the whole waking world has stopped to listen to what he’s saying, it’s that important. After this, a fight breaks out, and the tension is broken and an air of excitement and nerves take over, and the music reflects this with it’s quick tempo.
The fire in the petrol station represents the burning anger of the two parties involved. * * * * * * * * * * * * When we first see Romeo in the doorway of the church after the chaos outside, we are very close to him. It creates an atmosphere contrasting drastically to the one beforehand, with long distance shots and a lot going on very quickly. We immediately know that what is to come will be different, and with the silence as well, a feeling of anticipation and trepidation is created. The darkness adds a feeling of unease and nervousness to the worried anticipation.
The lack of light parallels the lack of sound, and so the impression is given that little is clear in Romeo’s mind, and also implies bad things to come, like an omen, and the clichÃ© of a dark night when bad things happen. Only his eye is visible from the light protruding from the church ahead, and this enforces that sense that things aren’t clear. To summarize, at this point in the film, the music, lighting, shots and characterisation all add up to feelings of anticipation of the expected denouement, unease and worry, but also a sense of privacy now that the outside world is closed off.
Luhrman has used similar techniques to that of the beginning scene showing the Montague boys in their car. In that scene, the wide spaciousness, lighting, noise, music and shouting all gave a sense of contentment and excitement. A lack of all these things in Romeo’s scene means a lack of excitement and contentment; more commonly recognised as sadness. Luhrman shows a slot view through the church doors to the ceremony from Romeo’s point of view before he proceeds to enter it. It seems he is hesitating; perhaps he is thinking.
It puts the audience in Romeo’s shoes for the first time in awhile, and a few things strike the audience that never did before, and an effort is made on the audience’s part to try to imagine what he must be thinking and feeling. It is clear that the audience was intended to feel empathy when Romeo makes his way down the isle, but at this point in time, the music level is still low, the lighting is beginning to pick up, and Romeo is staying mostly still. It is unclear what is being felt; just immense confusion, and the effort to try and understand what is happening means not much attention is paid to emotion, so it’s a little bit like a blank.
As Romeo proceeds down the isle, the atmosphere changes to one of nervousness, sadness and unsure anticipation. Romeo walks very slowly, and looks very pained and thoughtful. We also see tracking camera shots of Romeo, showing the scene from his point of view, so the audience feels as if they are in his shoes. The camera flicks between side-on shots of him and shots from his point of view, and it is as if you are being told: “Look at what he is feeling; imagine what he is feeling; look at him; look at what he is seeing… ” being told to put the two together.
His eyes are fixed, looking ahead to where Juliet lies. The music mirrors what the audience interprets from the characterisation, and so the feeling is strengthened. Romeo presents a very nervous disposition, and naturally, the viewer shares these instincts, and so the nervousness and unease is felt strongly. His slow movements represent his fear of what is ahead, and worry, and his need to think about what is happening and what he should do. He is considering killing himself; he seems quite sure of it, as he has the bottle grasped tightly in his hand, as if, ironically, it was his lifeline.
The intentions of the way the atmosphere was created was to make us feel like Romeo, and it does so very successfully, and so we feel what he feels; and his wife is dead and he wants to kill himself, so we aren’t feeling great. In the last of the opening scenes of the film which I looked at, there was a fire, which represented the hatred between the two groups; the friction and the conflict. At the end, Juliet is surrounded by candles, lots of them, but this time the flames represent the beauty and importance of Juliet. It brings the focus straight to her. It makes everything seem so much more upsetting to Romeo, as she was treasured so much.
The candles and the surrounding darkness make us feel pained, and indeed Romeo feels the same, as he reflexes as he would if he were feeling overpowering physical pain. I think the set up of Juliet’s funeral fundamentally says a light has been lost, with the candles and the crosses and the shrubbery all adding up to a funeral parlour times one thousand, and this loss of light is a great sadness to behold. The music gradually builds up as Romeo makes his way down the isle. The music seems to mirror Romeo’s and so our feelings, and perhaps this is why there was silence at the beginning, when he didn’t know what to think or expect.
There is a crescendo, at which point Romeo is looking with desperation at Juliet, and with the music steadily increasing in volume, the feeling of overwhelming emotion resumes. At the beginning of the film, powerful and dramatic music was used to create this same atmosphere, but this time around it is slower, and sadder, and represents more about forlorn hope and great sadness than an overall tragedy. While Romeo is walking down the isle, we see some shots from his point of view as he approaches Juliet.
This goes along side the music, in that Luhrman is trying to get us into Romeo’s shoes, so that we can see what he is seeing and feel what he is feeling. It makes the feelings seem more real, and makes the audience more involved and caught up. It greatens the sadness also, because the feeling of empathy is literally right there in front of you. Once Romeo has joined Juliet, from that moment on, the shots are all very close up. It gives a huge sense of intimacy with the characters, which, in the long run, means their deaths are more of a tragedy.
We see many small movements in Juliet, such as her fingers or eyelids twitching, and they are quite clear in comparison to the predominant stillness around her. It makes the viewer feel very involved, that we have seen she is alive and Romeo hasn’t, that after all this time of being in Romeo’s shoes, now is the time he needs us to be in his shoes to show him she is alive. A great sense of tension, helplessness and frustration is felt by the audience, who feel as if they are involved in what is going on, because of the intimacy entailed by the shots, but aren’t there, so can’t help the situation.
We also see a close up view of the bottle of poison in Romeo’s hand as he lifts it towards his mouth. Since we see it from Juliet’s point of view, we see what she sees and feel the same as her, but we know all that has happened, and so the frustration is felt again, but this time from the other way round, feeling as if we want to help her. We also see Romeo die from Juliet’s point of view; so again, we share her feelings and their intimacy. Since we felt as if we shared something with them; the intimacy, we also feel the loss when he dies. These scenes are very slow; to provoke thought maybe. It takes time to comprehend some things.
This is reflected in the music, as its tempo is consistently slow and sorrowful, the lighting, as it is dark around and intimate in amongst the candles, and the characters seem very thoughtful. After Romeo dies, we see his gun, slowed down and blurry, from Juliet’s point of view. The blurriness could represent both the tears in her eyes and the confusion she is feeling about what she may do. It is always intended for the audience to feel empathy, so when so much is shared with the character to the point at which the tears are shown from that same perspective, it is hard to see where the audience ends and the character begins.
A viewer can get very emotionally caught up in this scene. Her indecisiveness is common with the image in that it is out of focus. It represents her mind at the same time. Once it comes into focus, it is clear she has decided. The scene after Romeo dies is mostly silent, and so when the echoes of the noises made by Juliet are heard, it is very sudden and shocking, and both Juliet and the audience are startled. For instance, When Juliet clicks the gun, she jumps from the shock of the sound, and this is echoed. The click of the gun makes her jump because of the realisation of what she is about to do, that it is actually real.
The tension is slightly relieved because it has been certified that she will shoot herself, but the realness of it shocks both Juliet and the audience. After the gunshot, the camera goes from the close up intimacy with the characters to a long shot overlooking the scene. It acts as a reminder that it is just a story, that before you could have been drawn in, but the reality is you are the onlooker, and so only empathy can be felt at this point because of the detachment entailed. After a few seconds overlooking the final resting place of Romeo and Juliet, some moments of Romeo and Juliet are re-shown.
It highlights the sense of loss and nostalgia; that it picks at the fresh wounds of all that was and all that could have been, showing the happiest moments they shared together. The music mirrors this, being slow and sorrowful, creating the atmosphere of great sadness that all involved must be feeling. At the end, it freezes on a shot of Romeo and Juliet kissing underwater. It is the last effort to hold on to what has been lost. And so the feeling loss is greatened and can overwhelm the most emotional of viewers. The film becomes memorable for the sadness felt.
A moments’ pause for reflection is given between the two scenes, to take in all that has happened; to think how it could have been. It draws out the feelings previously felt, and so the feelings are remembered and the memory sticks. During the gathering of people, including the Montagues, Capulets, police and ambulance men, the camera stays mostly on the chief of police. The importance of what he says is clear, and the focus is certainly solely on him and his words. The people are gathered around him, and all is quiet except for him speaking. When he says, “all are punishÃ¨d, all are punishÃ¨d! he is summarising what all the surrounding characters and possibly the audience too are thinking. The fact that he repeats simply puts emphasis on it, and it is also the final thing he says. It is the message he wants you to take away with you. The screen changes, and slow zooming backwards reveals that what we have just watched was on the TV report seen at the very beginning of the film. It renews the sense of detachment, that we are just onlookers to this tragedy. The fact that it zooms out is a direct reference to the opening of the film and the story, where there is slow zooming in. t the beginning, it is used to convey the idea of slowly getting drawn into the story, tuning in and trying to understand. At the end it is like closing off the story, rounding it all up, just taking time to think about what happened. As if you’ve been drawn into this story, you experienced it, and now it’s time to go back to your own life. The last thing the newsreader says is: “And go forth to talk more of these sad things, for never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo. ” It leaves you with a feeling of sadness.
Seeing it in a news reel emphasises your detachment from it, whereas before the audience was led to be very caught up in the story. At the very beginning of the film, there is a vague sense of mystery given by the fuzzy sounds of the TV tuning in. however, at the end, it represents not mystery but closure. At the beginning of the film, there is a similar set out to the one seen at the end: The television set is placed in the middle of the screen, and all around it is plain blank blackness, and since the focus is on the TV in the centre, the viewer doesn’t consciously notice the black background.
In the opening scene, the story gradually unfolds and initiates. And so the end is the opposite; the story is coming to a close and the viewer is gradually disconnected from the scenes which have held the attention and emotion of the audience. In conclusion, it would seem that Luhrman has used many aspects of media to provoke the emotions of his target audience. Young people are very interested in music, so the carefully chosen tracks he has used, particularly at the beginning and end, relate to young viewers very well.
He has chosen the cast and characterised them so that they, too, are easy to relate to, and so has really reached the audience. He has also used lighting and images to his advantage, making the atmosphere memorable, and accelerating the feelings brought up in the scenes. He has used the shots to show the audience different ways of looking at what is going on, and also giving participation and status. Overall, using different combinations of the same types of lighting, colour, images, characterisation and shots, he has created equally powerful beginning and ending to a film very effectively with the way he has done it.