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Analysis Essay, Research Paper
http://wwwpH2.cc.emory.edu/WHEEL/archive/97oct10/news/missam.htmlA Historical Drama
The 1996 Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet is unusual because it takes place in modern times. This creates an interesting setting for a play written in the 15th century. Luhrmann manages to create a movie that is remarkably faithful to the play’s vision and sense of tragedy without drastically changing the play.
The characters of Romeo and Juliet are a colorful group. Their changes in the movie are subtle, but noticeable. The nurse in the play is a blabbermouth, and is more of a mother to Juliet than Lady Capulet. In the movie, she is more to the point, doesn’t talk as much, and isn’t as close to Juliet. She is more of a servant than a close friend. Another character is Lady Capulet; she has very bad temper and wants Romeo to die. She also has a cold demeanor and virtually shuns Juliet until her death. In the movie, she is horrible flirt with Paris and has a more platonic relationship with Tybalt. She is warm in the play and seems to be more of a victim of domestic violence. The main characters hardly change though. Mercutio is still the satirist, dueling with words. Juliet also remains the same. She still matures from “a stranger to the world.” She is an independent woman
faithful to play.
Themes have strong role in Romeo and Juliet. Most notables are the themes of love and fate. The play develops the theme of love through contrast. On one hand, there is Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline and the arranged marriage of Paris and Juliet. On the other is the pure or true love of Romeo and Juliet. The play show this through their action and speeches to one another. The movie develops the theme of love the same way, but with the additional twist of incest (Tybalt and Lady Capulet) and homosexuality(Mercutio). The theme of the fate almost disappears, however. The play shows many premonitions of tragedy to Romeo, Juliet, and the Friar. There are also some events that are beyond their control. One particular event is feud between the families, the plague, and Lord Capulet consenting Paris’s marriage. In the movie, Romeo fails to notice the receipt for the Friar’s letter through sheer stupidity or ignorance. Near the end, when Romeo is grieving near Juliet, he fails to notice Juliet moving and that she is still warm . Therefore, it’s no longer events beyond their control.
Luhrmann’s ends up cutting almost a third of the original text for the movie. He cut out much of the text due to time constraints and to keep the movie going at a constant pace. The script ends up only having the essentials of the plot and sometimes-killing whole scenes, and this changes the imagery and the emotion of some scenes. In the play, Romeo says, “Thy drugs are quick” when he drinks the poison. In the movie, it’s used to refer to the acid tablet Mercutio gave him. It turns out to be one big acid trip instead of
Romeo’s death. Also Romeo kills Paris and Friar arrives as Juliet awakes. In the movie, the Friar and Paris never come to the tomb. Romeo is alone with Juliet, and he is about to drink poison, Juliet wakes up too late to stop him. She holds Romeo and looks for leftover poison to drink for her. Romeo says “Thus with a kiss I die.” Just by omitting a lot of the text and action, Luhrmann creates an even more tragic scene than the play’s version. Another example is Tybalt’s line to Lord Capulet, “I will withdrew: but this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet, convert to bitter gall.” In the movie, Tybalt says it as the party guests leave. By putting it here, it increases the tension of the scene, and helps explain the events to the audience. Luhrmann uses the text to improve the film, and he does it without violating the text.
At the end, Luhrmann genuinely does a great adaptation from play to film. Many of the changes help today’s audiences understand the play more clearly, in a setting that is familiar to us. This shows Luhrmann knew the differences between theater and cinema. Rather than making a four-hour film with the complete text, he combined the great Shakespearean text with the possibilities of film.
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