Comment on how Baz Luhrmann uses video and audio techniques to communicate themes and character to the audience. ” “Romeo and Juliet,” is a play written by William Shakespeare in the late sixteenth century “in fair Verona. ” This is an ultimate love story between the only children of two powerful enemies “, both alike in dignity… ” These two households bear an “ancient grudge. ” Within this hate “Romeo and Juliet’s” love cannot survive, and they are driven by this hate to death. From this 1595 classic play, Baz Luhrmann got the job of wielding it in to a twentieth centaury blockbuster.
He did this by using many different techniques, and even though he keeps the original dialogue, he changes many classic features of the play to give this modern feel to it. Such as horses to cars, Swords to guns and villages to cities are several examples. As the film starts, the opening shot is of a modern day television. It is shown speaking as a newsreader, speaking as a chorus would on stage, giving background knowledge to the audience watching. This television reflects Luhrmann’s modern setting, showing how the film will be set, rather than the one in which the written play was set.
The TV represents the media, as our main source of information. Just as the chorus would be, stood on stage, addressing the audience, giving them required information. The headline upon the TV reads “, Star-crossed lovers,” and above a picture of a ring split in two, showing both the themes of love and hate. How the pair had love enough to marry, though within their families there was hate enough to drive the couple to take their lives. Their love was doomed to die, the ring shows how they could not be together as reflected in one of the chorus’ lines “, death marked love. ”
One extremely short though effective camera shot, zooms down the middle of a main street, with many high raised buildings, until focusing upon a large statue of Christ. Showing that religion will play some part within the play/film. Here loud dramatic music kicks in. This music tells us that the play is going to be very powerful and dramatic. The chorus’s first line appears white upon black, “in fair Verona. ” White and black are usually associated with good and bad. Showing two main features of the film. Again the image of Christ’s face appears, a close up camera shot, recoiling to show two large skyscrapers dominating the skyline.
Each bearing separate names, Montague and Capulet, showing the large gap between them, they are different. The sheer size of the buildings tells us they are wealthy families, but separate. The statue of Christ is stood in the middle, showing again the religious society in which the film is set. Still with the dramatic music playing building up aura, images of police vehicles- cars and helicopters burn across the screen. Quick images. Images of conflict, linking the families with violence and ultimately the law. The music quietens, though still strong and menacing, as a voice over man speaks the same lines as already spoken by the ‘chorus.
‘ Now the images are shown slower, “two households both alike in dignity… ” showing the two families, again separated by Jesus, sour looks upon the head’s faces; hate and malcontent, though smiles upon the children’s; happy, contented faces, with no worries. Leading on to images of flames, representing hell, hatred and death. Headlines of newspapers flash upon the screen, linking again with the theme of the media and the modern setting. Showing there must be public interest in the growing feud between the two families, and again highlighting the conflict between the two families.
Extremely short images are shown of police helping civilians escape the troubles caused by this abhorrence between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. The music had died down up until the point of “take their life,” where it picks up again adding atmosphere and letting the audience know there is great tragedy within the film. Another modern technique is then used. Just as characters on television programs are introduced or how western wanted posters are displayed, some of the main characters are initiated. These images build great suspense though shows a building power within the play/film.
Two important images from later on in the film flash upon the screen, though they are very insignificant at this point, just adding suspense and wonder at this early stage. The music reaches a peek as the now familiar words of the prologue flash upon the screen. The words white on black, suspense, power, the words showing love, lust, hatred and tragedy. Followed by random images shooting across the screen, fireworks, choir boys singing in a loud wild fashion. Guns, characters, light and dark images showing good and evil. Loud bangs of gunshots, police helicopters, blood, raging images demonstrating excitement and apprehension to the audience.
Now with the music at a climax, the words in bold print of “Romeo + Juliet” linger upon the screen. The “+” in blood red symbolising bloodshed and conflict, it is also shaped like a cross, to continue the religious theme of the film. The words are white upon black, illustrating good and evil. Here the music changes and a bouncier, more funky, modern tune kicks in as “the boys” come on to the screen. These three wear brightly coloured shirts- reds and lime greens, indicating good and ‘to me’ fun. Though with the first line spoken you realise the Montague boys hate the Capulet’s.
“The boys” are presented whizzing down a highway in an expensive looking yellow convertible, again suggesting warmth and fun. They are cool, with open shirts, brightly coloured hair, shades on heads and tattoos over their bodies. They are excitable, casual and looking at them they would not pose any threat. The car has a personalised number plate, “Mon-005, Verona beach” again showing wealth. The camera shot is at the front of the car as it comes in to the gas station, here there is a sound of screeching tyres, the piping of horns and basically excitable boyish behaviour.
“Benvolio- Romeos cousin” does not come across as uncompromising, he tries to detach himself from the quarrel between the two families “masters. ” Where as the other two “Montague boys” are very eager and want to be involved this is sown in their faces as a face close up is shown. Here Benvolio turns and another facial close up is shown, his face twisted almost looking in disgust as he turns and walks away. Here the camera turns moving across to another pump as an expensive looking blue car pulls calmly in to the station.
Blue suggesting coldness and the slow speed suggests that the driver is not excitable like the Montague boys but serious. The music suddenly changes from hip to a western style tune as another personalised number plate is shown ” Cap-005, Verona beach. ” The camera is swung around with a whooping sound and rests upon a close up of the bottom of the car door opening and a pair of western style cowboy boots stepping from the car. Here the frame freezes on the boot touching the ground, Cooley and calmly and in this freeze frame he displays the words “The Capulet boys” with western style music playing to continue the western style theme.
The boots walk away through a door the sound of spurs following, tension building as the camera shot moves again from the western boots to shoes and tights and the giggling of little girls over the western music. Leading back to more dark cowboy boots with spurs. The shoes belong to a Nun with a class of children and each side of their people carries resides a car of each of the two families. The two families torment the nun and her party in a very cocky sort of manor, exceptionally intimidating. So as the nun and her party speeds away to escape further torment, the two families are revealed to each other for the first time.
The fun and idiocy of the Montague’s turns to fear, as “Abra-Capulet” is revealed. Here another facial close-up is shown. Abra wears dark menacing colours (oranges, blacks and reds- colours associated with hell. ) He has a goatee beard an earring and a silver chain with cross hanging around his neck. He has the look of a typical gunslinger, someone who could be extremely dangerous. The music is now changed, as a more electric tune plays more menacing and threatening than before, highlighting the danger of this man. Fear is shown in the Montague’s faces, shocked by the appearance of a known enemy.
This man alarms them and with this abrupt entrance one of the boys makes a quick movement to reveal the butt of his pistol. A fast frightened movement, followed by the facial shot of a frightened face and the sound of a reluctant gasp, signifying the fear and tension between the two families. Here there is a shot of the face of Abra moving down his body and showing the slow movements of his hands to reveal the butt of his own pistol, engraved with the word Capulet, just as the Montague’s gun was engraved with the word Montague, reflecting wealth yet again.
The movements are menacingly slow, so calm and cool. Then suddenly a loud hissing sound like a serpent as Abra snarls revealing the word sin engraved on a silver plaque on his teeth. The camera is at a straight close up angle. The shot is both threatening and frightening. Here all the sounds stop as the Montague’s sink back in to the car relieved that no harm has come to them. Though the Capulet’s are amused by the impression they have made upon the Montague’s and laugh profusely showing they do not feel threatened at all by their presence but take them more as a joke than any thing else.
The Montague’s took this wind up a little too lightly and decide to make a second move. Here one of the Montague’s bites their thumb at the Capulet’s. This is shown as a close up with a silly sound coming from the mouth of the offending Montague. Now there is anger and hate starting to show as the montages reverse the car, with the noise of screeching tyres, and the sound of a quick furious sounding, loud blast of music showing anger. The caplets sling loud though slow angry words at the Montages who return fast frightened words trying to calm the situation.
Though as the camera shot goes to the toilet door, the quick shocking music picks up again and Benvolio appears-an image of a peace maker leading to a close up of Benvolio’s gun with a change back to western music. Here with gun drawn, a close up of Benvolio’s apprehensive face fills the screen and silence falls. Here only the sound of an old creaky sign is heard blowing in the wind, un-nerving Benvolio further and continuing the western theme. The camera swizzles around to an image of a close up cigar being lit and a match being dropped to the ground by “Tybalt-the prince of cats.
Juliet’s cousin” Landing close to his feet, though still burning. The music playing slowly and quietly, adding tension and atmosphere. Now there is a major close up of tybalts face. He has the look of the devil, slick black hair with tiny matching beard. He has pointed teeth that only a close up would enable us to see properly. He wears the colours of the devil, Reds and blacks showing hate, fire, torment and death. Also his face shows no fear, no feelings but pure untamed hate. He is just so slick and calm and as he speaks, there is a close up on his eyes.
These ooze confidence and hold great hate and rage towards the Montague’s. The camera then focuses on Benvolio’s eyes, which are the complete opposite to Tybalt’s. His eyes show a great fear of the other man, apprehension. All adding tension to the opening scene. On a half of body shot, Benvolio is seen putting away his sword (which in this 1997 film s actually a gun,) and in an effort tries to avoid conflict by stating “I do only to keep the peace put up my sword. ” His voice shaky in the eerie silence. Then another facial close up on Tybalt, as he says, “Peace, peace, I hate the word.
As I hate hell. All Montague’s. And thee. ” With no quivers only confidence and raw hate. The burning match is finally stamped out with the sound of the metal healed boots grinding at the concrete ground. This long gap between lighting the match and putting it out shows a great danger. This man means something; he alone stands for power and danger. Now a small boy, symbolising innocent bystanders at the market place, interrupts the silence. The boy just playing, shouting “bang, bang” triggering the attack. Tybalt draws, the music screeching.
The shot looking up the barrel of tybalt’s gun as the word “bang” is said again. Showing he is willing to harm fellow citizens if need be. Now there is a range of many different camera shots, with electric music playing in the background. Tybalt does a lot of flamenco style movements, flowing, professional movements, as though he was fluent and skilled in the art. Very dramatic and serious movements, with no fear of being harmed. The Montague’s begin to try to fight back, though not really succeeding. They are frightened; you can see it in their eyes.
Tybalt moves almost fashionably, where as the Montague’s don’t really know what to do. They shoot, showing no passion or drive. Unlike Tybalt who shows both. Tybalt is calling the shots, and in a swift movement he throws down his coat and fits an aiming device. Kissing his gun with a loving passion. People are running, frightened. The Montague’s flee, leaving Benvolio and Tybalt in the petrol station. Music still flaring giving added depth to the scene, petrol covering the ground. Tybalt zooms on to one of the fleeing Montague’s, taking the shot, and injuring him.
The camera looking down the guns barrel as the shot is fired, pointing into Tybalts eyes. With a flickering smile he drops the cigar from his mouth, landing in a pool of petrol and igniting it immediately, which during the whole scene showed how contented he was with conflict. Here Benvolio flees with Tybalt in pursuit. The flames escalate, symbolising the devastation to come. The flames show hate and anger. Every body around is affected by the fighting as symbolised by the flames. Affecting people’s livelihoods, every body is effected by these civil brawls.
There is very dramatic music playing now, escalating the feeling of hate and friction between the two families. A poster is shown burning, once stating “Montague’s and Capulet’s 2nd civil brawl. ” This shows that it is over; hate has ended that, and born a third brawl, more powerful than the previous ones. A sign is also shown burning, “Add more fuel to your fire. ” Showing that the public are affected, and that hate is the road to all evil’s, symbolising the devil and hell. The camera follows the flames upwards showing things will get worse, still with the music blasting.
It moves up and through the smoke screen, the two houses can be seen dominating the skyline, with the image of Jesus between them. Still looking extravagant and wealthy after the brawl. Nothings really changed. The fire is burning as strong as their hate, causing public panic and confusion. Now short images are shown of police helicopters and vehicles flying between and around the towers and statue. The music still blearing. Shots are shown from alternate angles showing news reporters reporting the third civil brawl, again linking with the media.
Ted Montague (the father-head of the house) rushes to the scene in his limo with registration plate being “Montague, Verona beach. ” Again representing wealth and power. Once more fast flickering shots are shown of the fleeing public, panic stricken, confused. Police swarming to the scene in different kinds of vehicles now, and here with the music breaching a climax the shots slow down and return to facial close-ups. Tybalt and Benvolio are screaming at each other hate in their eyes, with no more fear left in Benvolio’s body only hate.
Cars spread upon the road, utter havoc breached by the two feuding enemies. Guns are pointed at the couple from air and ground. They have no choice but to both walk forward and admit defeat, dropping their weapons to the ground. There is no music now just a loud ‘boom’ as the weapons fall. Adrenalin at an ultimate climax for anybody watching. The range of shots along with the series of different sounds and music create an unforgettable opening, showing many of the different themes and aspects of the play/film to anybody watching.