Oh, how I do love this film! I have watched this film countless times for English work about 5 years ago, had it as my main project [along with the rest of Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy] and obviously, I watch it in leisure. I could review the film without watching it tonight but I’m worried that I might miss a few things out and, of course, I want to watch it again.
This opening is by far my favourite opening of any film I’ve ever watched. It is thanks to this beginning that I knew [and still know] the prologue of this play in time for my performance in it in secondary school [I was the nurse, in case anyone was wondering!]. In this movie, we are told the prologue twice; once from a news reporter on a television set and second, by the priest to a montage filled with newspaper cuttings and clips from news reports showing the devastation the Montague’s and Capulet’s have caused. This is a fantastic beginning because most people would ‘turn off’, so to speak, at the sound of the Shakespearian language but mix it with guns blazing, helicopters everywhere and some action, and you have the audience’s attention. Not only because we enjoy a little action, but because it’s the total opposite of what you would stereotypically see in a Shakespearian ‘play’.
A lot of people are thrown off by the Shakespearian language and probably wouldn’t want to see this film from fear of not understanding and therefore feeling foolish. This film will not leave you feeling foolish or unintelligent. I don’t quite know how Luhrmann has done it but he’s managed to make the audience understand every sentence. Maybe it’s the actor’s tones of voices or their actions but there is something that makes us still understand. Not once have I gone “wait, wait, what did he say? What does that mean?”. Everything is modern except for the speech but who needs speech? It may sound beautiful and poetic but you don’t need to know exactly what they’re saying to get it. Look at the silent movies!
I wrote one thing down which is something I’ve always loved is that even though they talk about swords, the guns are named after the types of swords that come up in the character’s speeches. I also love the demolished cinema that’s in middle of the beach. Its not a theatre, apparently, according to the production designer, which I originally thought it was. I think it would make more sense for it to be a theatre as the big fight scene between Romeo/Mercutio/Tybalt is done on the ‘stage’ part, giving it a very theatrical feel to this classic scene. All to their own interpretation, I guess.
The party scene was costumed in a way that shows you exactly what the characters are like. We have Juliet, the angle, Romeo, the knight, Tybalt, the devil [who got his horns from Claire‘s] and Lord Capulet as Caesar. These costumes describe to us their personalities. For example, Lord Capulet is Caesar because he is power hungry and thinks he’s above everyone. All girls may say they like an astronaut [which is what Prince was dressed as] but what they really want is a knight to rescue them; Romeo.
The cinematography, the editing, the set design and the lighting make this film a work of art. You could pause it at any moment and be stunned with how beautiful it is. It is, visually, a breathtaking film. And what could be a more beautiful scene than when Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time through that fish tank. Its such a stunning scene with the fish tank symbolizing that they can never be together, there will always be something in their way. Its also set to one of the most beautiful songs ever, Kissing You by Des’ree. it’s a perfect choice of song for this [and the following] scenes. Then we have an equally gorgeous scene; the kissing in the pool. The combination of a handsome pool, lighting and underwater kissing make this scene so wonderful. Also, the kissing looks so natural! It sounds weird but you have those movie kisses that make you feel a little uncomfortable and you can tell is very fake but this kiss [well, the many kisses and make-out sessions] is so filled with love! And kissing in the water is just sweet anyways. Oooo, almost forgot, there’s another adorable scene which is usually a saucy one; the love scene. They’re so delicate with each other which makes a change to the usual ripping each other’s clothes off. Juliet examines Romeo’s wounds with such love that makes you look at your man and think “why the hell do I not care when he gets hurt?’. It’s a sexual scene but is the true meaning of ‘making love’.
Because of the spacing of these scens and days, you forget that they’ve actually only just met! They met, got married the next day then died the day after that! Incredibly unrealistic but that’s Shakespear’s fault, not Luhrmann’s. It just makes me laugh. Anyway, they get married in the grooviest [in the most realistic way] church with a kid who has one hell of a singing voice. Religion, especially Catholic, is forever seen in the movie. Nowadays, people have posters of rock stars or models but in this film, its all Jesus or the Virgin Mary. There is one painting on the wall in the Church of Jesus but it looks a little like David Beckham. Its weird. Funny, but weird. There are two ‘types’ of religion in this movie. You have the normal religion with church and Mary and stuff but then you have the other ‘type’ which gives into the sins a.k.a. Verona Beach, where some of this movie is set. Praying to God for good health and praying to God that this next prostitute will be a cheap one. Its strange as the ‘good guys’/Montagues as stationed at Verona Beach whereas the ‘bad guys’/Capulets are covered in images of the Virgin Mary. You’d think it would be the other way around.
There are two heartbreaking scenes, in my opinion. You have Romeo running towards his friends, about to announce he’s married but Tybalt ruins that. Romeo tries to make the peace for Juliet’s sake but Tybalt rejects him. It’s the whole seeing Romeo so happy and joyful only for his face to fall dramatically. The other is, of course, the classic ending but we’ll get to that. You’d think that Romeo learning that Juliet was ‘dead’ would be one but its not because you have no time for your heart to break as you’re spending so much time screaming at the screen “SHE’S NOT DEAD! SHE’S NOT DEAD! LOOK BEHIND YOU! OPEN THAT DAMN LETTER!”.
Then we have that great finale. The church is filled with candles which I can’t help but think that its just plain stupid as its clearly a safety hazard and just dumb. [I’m being sarcastic. A few things I say are sarcastic and sarcasm isn’t something you can really portray on the internet unless you specifically say its sarcastic. Just so you know.] They talk about each other, especially Romeo, like they’ve been married forever, not just a day. He dies, her hands find the gun and we end with an aerial shot of our star-crossed lovers in a position we found them in in a previous scene [the morning after]. We are also given a montage, just to tug those heart strings a little more. The montage shows how they fell in love and how happy they were [and could have been]. Its lit in a way that’s almost dream like. You feel a sense of relief that they can finally be together. Then we’re drawn away from this and brought back to reality as we see the dead bodies covered up and parents in grief.
This ends our film. However, as the television reporter ends her ‘broadcast’, I came to a sudden conclusion that this film was shot like it was a documentary or an actual television report. Luhrmann wasn’t trying to recreate the story. He was trying to retell it in a way that got to more people. He was simply reporting what had already happened. I love this, I really do. There’s no point trying to redo such a classic. Retelling it is a better, and more dignified way. This is why I adore this film.
For never was there a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.