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Baz Luhrmann’s Greatest Failure Yet: Film Romeo + Juliet

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William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is known as the greatest love story of all time. Describes the impetuousness of love at a young age, the purity, the violence, and the tragedy. Featuring the world’s most renowned couple, Romeo + Juliet is Baz Luhrmann’s failed attempt at modernization of the original play. Lurhmann has successfully made a film that will not only bore any viewer but distress any lover of Shakespeare. This film is likely to make the audience cry for all the wrong reasons. Romeo and Juliet meet at the Capulet Party Luhrmann is well-known for his contemporary style and deep involvement in all aspects of his work. He is referred to by many as a ‘pioneer of pop culture’. This is due to his unique style and highly exaggerated scenes that captivate audiences.

The acting ability of the cast members varies in the film. Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Romeo, portrayed his role extremely well and captured hearts with every breath. On the contrary, Claire Danes, Juliet, was way in over her head. The poor acting also extends to the Montague and Capulet boys in the opening scene. Their lines are shouted unintelligibly, so the audience is unable to understand. Throughout the film, much of the dialogue is extremely difficult to understand. Almost none of the actors had mastered how to speak the unusual dialogue. This was not how Shakespeare intended for his writing to be delivered to an audience. Since the audience is unable to understand the dialogue, the sense of tension and drama is lost.

The editing throughout the film is fast-paced and extremely hard to follow. The quick camera movements result in headaches and confusion among the audience. This style of editing may be “fun and exciting” for some viewers but is certainly not enjoyable for others. It is impossible to ignore Luhrmann’s anti-realist style right from the prologue. Following the beginning narration from a tv news anchor, you are thrown into a scene of bright colors and fast cuts. As the narrator begins to recite Shakespeare’s prologue, bold text appears on the screen so the audience can understand. Such as when it is shown ‘Civil blood makes civil hands unclean’ as a newspaper title, followed by short clips of violence and chaos, to visually convey Shakespeare’s meaning. These shots change quickly, this is difficult for the audience to follow. Luhrmann uses fast-paced editing styles to show how disoriented the scenes and characters are, making the audience feel the same, Close-up shots are typically used to show the emotions expressed by the characters. One thing that’s hard to miss is the frequent use of water throughout the film. The first time we see Romeo, he is by the sea, Juliet is also first shown in the bath. The couple makes their first connection through a fish tank in the bathroom. This was intended to be romantic but puzzles everybody viewing it. The water is a metaphor for Romeo and Juliet’s love, pure and beautiful. However, the overwhelming editing takes value away from the film, it is apparent that more effort was put into the visual aesthetic of the film as opposed to the dialogue. 

In a pathetic attempt to modernize Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, iconic scenes have been drastically changed. The end of the film was extremely disappointing in comparison to the play. Firstly, there was no fight between Romeo and Paris. In the play, Friar Lawrence and others entered the tomb to find both Juliet and Romeo dead. In the play, Juliet lies in her family’s tomb under the influence of the sleeping potion given to her by Friar Lawrence. After believing Juliet is dead, Romeo drinks poison and then dies. Juliet then wakes up and after realizing he is dead, stabs herself with his dagger. In the film, Juliet awakens as Romeo drinks the poison that could have clearly prevented his death. After he dies she then shoots herself in the head. The audience is made to suffer just as much as they did. Romeo and Juliet, both dead

To try to relate to a modern audience, Baz Luhrmann not only changed the characters but the setting of the film. The weapons of the Montague and Capulet gang members were guns as opposed to swords, however, the guns are engraved with titles such as ‘sword’ to correspond with the Shakespearean dialogue. The film is culturally inclusive to represent tolerance and acceptance of different races. Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, is black, as well as portrayed as queer, causing you to question his feelings towards Romeo. At the Capulet party, Mercutio is later dressed as a drag queen. This adds to the modernization of the film for a young contemporary audience. However, it promotes violence, guns, and drugs, which may negatively influence young audiences, as well as promote teenage suicide.

Overall, this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is an extreme disappointment to any Shakespeare fan. It belongs in a trashcan rather than on a television screen. The bad acting and unintelligible dialogue distract from the plot. Luhrmann’s editing style confuses and causes distress among viewers. Although features of the original play have been modified to appeal to a younger audience, they promote negative behaviors. To successfully modernize Romeo + Juliet, the dialogue must be changed so it is understandable. This film is a waste of 120 minutes and I fully recommend against it.

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Baz Luhrmann’s Greatest Failure Yet: Film Romeo + Juliet. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
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