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William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1966)

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William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1966)

Author: Sadeer Nasser

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1966)

Reviewed by: Sadeer Nasser


Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, and Paul Sorvino.

Director: Baz Lurhmann

Running Time: 115 minutes

And here is yet another re-make of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by director Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom). But this time the film encompasses ‘sword 9mm’ guns and helicopters as well as castles and the all-important catholic churches.

The film has an excellent start with a newsreader reading the prologue, which immediately switches with chaotic images that one would not normally associate with William Shakespeare. The prologue with its serious toned voiceover commands our attention almost suddenly with a statement of a problem. The newsreader tells the audience a great deal in people’s attitudes towards one another. It is seen that citizens of a town ought to be civil; that is they ought to show respect for one another and get along. But too often they aren’t hence ‘3rd CIVIL BRAWL’ headline. This sets the scene for the audience telling us that instead they choose to engage in civil wars and shed ‘civil blood’.

The paradoxical situation exists in ‘Fair Verona’. To Shakespearean and Elizabethan audiences, Verona was thought as a hot, sexy, violent Catholic country. There this unusual adaptation was filmed in Mexico, bringing in the violence and the importance of religion to full effect.

The prologue also tells us of how the problem is solved, the plot of the play, and what kind of play it is e.g. ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life…’ the star-crossed lovers being Leonardo DiCaprio (Growing Pains) as Romeo and Claire Danes (My so called life) as Juliet.

There are many ways Luhrmann uses text, shot types, images and music in order to set the scene for the viewer. The newspaper articles with their bold headlines almost tell the story themselves, e.g. ‘3rd Civil Brawl’ and ‘Montague vs. Capulet’.

The voiceover for the prologue is emotionally powerful. The newsreader is a real anchorperson which has a great effect of realism for the audience, this adds to the effects given by the images displayed whilst the prologue is being read.

The ‘strife’ between both families is automatically shown in the images introducing the most important characters. This is shown by the looks upon each of the families’ faces. One of the main images brought across is to do with the importance

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