The most stereotypical teenage response to Shakespeare is usually very negative. This is usually due the language being so different from our own, along with the difference in time. Baz Lurhmann changes all of this in his version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Where he alters every aspect of the play modernizing it, apart from the original main dialogue. His large Hollywood silver screen adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is the only of its kind which keeps the original script. This unusual combination of modern imagery and 16th century speech is likely to be a key reason for the films huge success.
The target audience for this film can be seen as two possible groups. The most obvious is that he has targeted the teenage audience, with the drugs, violence and the reality that teenagers can relate to the characters. The other possibility is that he has decided to be gender specific with his target audience. Targeting boys with the violence, which was not so spectacular and glorified in the original stage directions. Both of these target audiences are based at one end of a spectrum, one being age the other gender. Personally, I think that Baz Lurhmann was targeting teenagers rather than boy in general.
As the violence within the film is not so over stylized that girls will not find the appealing as a whole. The opening scene works well to give the audience their first taste of what the style of the film is going to be like. The opening soundtrack and marauding Montague hooligans combine to totally shock the audience. As the audience is seeing very disruptive, loud modern teenagers who are still all speaking the original 16th century English text. The comparisons between 16th and 20th century are linked together very effectively, making it very interesting to watch.
The beginning scene also has other aspects which are instantly very noticeable to the audience. One of these is the freeze frames which introduce each character. This is a very spaghetti western style thing, which adds a weird characteristic to the scene. Continuing the western theme are the Capulet’s clothes which are stylish modern western clothes. The basic layout of the first scene starts with the introduction of the Montague posse, who then pull over to get petrol. Where coincidentally they find the Capulet gang, who are then introduced. After some dispute they eventually digress into a gunfight.
The layout of the scene works well to introduce the basic storyline, which is that two rival families are skirmishing. During the opening scene the kinsman of each family are shown apart through clothes, music and general attitude. The clothes which are worn by each gang are possibly their most distinctive feature as they allow the audience to tell them apart by sight. The comparison between each gang is quite large; the Montague’s are shown to be colorful and flamboyant, wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts; the Capulet’s are cool and stylish in tight trousers and leather cowboy boots and jacket.
These clothes do primarily decided what the audience feels regarding each of the families. Personally I think that the Montague’s clothes show them to be crazy immature teenagers, whereas the Capulet’s are trendy and yet slightly sinister. The sinister side to the Capulet’s mainly comes from their overall image, where they are all wearing black and white and have chic Latino style facial hair. The attitudes which are shown by each gang are also very distinctive. The Montague’s appear to have a relaxed ignorant attitude which places them in dilemma.
Whereas the Capulet’s have a hard man, no jokes attitude where any slight insult could spark reaction. The Capulet’s attitude is again that of a cowboy, continuing the western theme, while adding to their dark and sinister side. I think overall the attitudes are designed to make the audience prefer the Montague’s, as the story then continues to be based around Romeo, a Montague. Another aspect to building the image of each gang is the music which is played while they are being introduced. The music I find vividly backs up the style of clothes which they are wearing.
The Montague’s ride along and are accompanied by hip-hop music which complements their clothes. While the Capulet’s are complemented by some sinister western guitar music. Again this continues the western theme surrounding the Capulet’s group. The other audio effect which is used in the beginning scene is the heavy use of extravagant sound effects. These often well overpower any other sound, drawing all attention to the source of the sound. This often includes the attention of the characters, who look just as confused by what is happening. The best example is when the prince of Cat’s, Tybalt drops a match and stamps it out.
The Camera and sound effect combine to focus upon this single action making it last an age. This along with the ricochets of bullets and the other sound effects are very ‘spaghetti western’ orientated. Baz Luhrmann uses a multitude of cinematic devises each heightening a certain aspect of the scene. Often at times of extreme tension the scene turns to slow-motion allowing the audience to capture every aspect of what they are seeing. The other main cinematic devise which I noticed was the quick cutting between facial expressions of characters.
Lets the viewer quickly see each characters reaction. The cutting between characters most often occurs just proceeding a majority significant statement, which will affect every character. So each characters reaction must be logged. The most obvious reference to another film genre is the western link which cameos throughout the scene. This features at many levels from the clothing, though the music and even the ignorant cowboys attitudes which the Capulet’s exercise. This adds the overall alternative style of the film, which Baz Luhrmann was trying to achieve.
Baz Luhrmann has undoubtedly been successful in making teenagers enjoy Shakespeare and has even started to permanently alter the previously held views. The most critical achievement which must be noted is his choice to use the original script. Without that I think the whole link to Shakespeare would have been far too vague for any real admiration that the film was still Shakespearian. The combination of Shakespearian Language with Modern imagery blends well making the film very watch-able and the language barrier non existent.
The Language Barrier is also dulled by the audio and visual effects which often say far more than words. That along with the stylish attire often explaining a lot of the story on its own. I found studying this film quite interesting, possible as I am the supposed target audience which I think is roughly correct. However I think that Baz Luhrmann was probably simply targeting a modern audience rather than a teenage audience. AS a target for his film I would say he has been fairly successful in glamorizing a famous play. Apart from the obvious flaw that I knew what was going to happen next, I enjoyed watching the film.