Romeo + Juliet (1996)… for I never saw true beauty ’til this night!

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Romeo + Juliet

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.9

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Dearest reader,

Like probably most second language English learners, I did this Shakespeare play in my final year of high school. I had a wonderful teacher who definitely is the reason that I love Shakespeare so much, today. But one thing that this teacher of mine did not teach me was a love for Shakespeare movies, and this one in particular.

In fact, she described this movie as a disgrace to the Shakespeare legacy and while we were watching it she pointed out all the incoherences. Whether this was because she could not understand it herself, or because she literally just hated this movie, she sure did convince me that Baz Luhrmann made quite a mess of the R+J remake.

It was not until I was discussing Baz Luhrmann with a colleague, about a month ago, that I really started thinking about this movie…

To me Luhrmann is just one of those directors that can do no wrong. Seeing The Great Gatsby in 2013 confirmed that he not only has an eye for exuberance, but that he also has an eye for the classics and, along with that, is not afraid of anachronisms (he rather uses them to his advantage).

The way that he relocated R+J is the first amazing thing about this movie. Moving this movie to the 21st century, he also moved it to Verona Beach (instead of Verona), which is quite brilliant. The change of setting allows him to explore characters further than the almost two-dimensional  characterisation that the theatre allows. By using costumes, locations and props that promote 21st century connotations, he certainly gave the characters more depth.

Another brilliant stylistic choice that Luhrmann made was to stick to the original dialogue. Together with the changed setting and the greater foundation of connotations for the modern viewer, it made Shakespearian English modern, while keeping it poetic. I believe that anyone can watch this movie and follow it completely without having substantial knowledge on Shakespearian English.

Lastly, the point that my colleague made and which is the single most brilliant thing about this film, is the fact that it proves what your English teacher have been telling you all these years: Shakespeare is timeless.

Up until today, we could not find a situation where Shakespeare was not accessible to the modern reader, or a situation where the ‘lessons’ that Shakespeare teaches was no longer accessible to the modern viewer. Luhrmann proves this by placing R+J in the 21st century, while keeping the original dialogue and plot. In fact, almost nothing is changed from the original plot, while Luhrmann adds clever little ‘tricks’ to help the dialogue fit (like naming the guns ‘swords’).

Amazing movie! For Shakespeare lovers, for Luhrmann lovers………. for everyone!

Want to read more on Romeo+Juliet? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Romeo + Juliet

Rolling Stone: Romeo + Juliet

 

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