Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie ‘William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’ is a very accessible version of the play. Modern secondary school students, I think, react to this movie in a similar way to how Shakespeare’s original – audience would have reacted. We forget how revolutionary this early play of Shakespeare’s was, but Luhrmann brings his audience face to face to the scandal of tampering with the Bard.
Whenever I have taught Romeo and Juliet to high school students, I dither over whether to show the movie first and then introduce them to the written text, or to plow through the script and then treat them to the movie. The gulf between 21st Century Australian state school students and Elizabethan England is narrowed by the visual interpretation and modernisation of the movie. The script is all taken from the original play, although not all the script is used. Some scenes are changed around or ommitted, and some changes to character storylines have been made.
Baz Luhrmann has set his version in a fictionalised Verona Beach in Florida. There is a Jesus monument on the hills overlooking the city, much like the Bolivian Jesus monument at Cochabamba. Skyscrapers are topped by the trade names Capulet and Montague to reinforce the conflict between the two families.
Romeo and Juliet meet at a party – discovering each other through the symbolic barrier of an aquarium.
Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube (HD)
The desensitized nature of the modern movie audience glories in the violence of this movie. Gun play, explosions, and the final double suicide are compelling and disturbing. I will often not play the final suicide scene because of its glorification of teen suicide. I think this is a dangerously attractive portrayal of suicide that I would rather not expose my students to.
Chapultepec Castle, Chapultepec Park, Mexico City.
Estudios Churubusco Azteca, Mexico City.
Romeo and Juliet Official Site includes information on Shakespeare, setting, production notes.
Craig Armstrong (Composer)
DVD Special Edition
- Subtitles in Spanish and English
- Audio commentary by Baz Luhrmann (director, co-writer, producer), Catherine Martin (production designer), Don McAlpine (cinematographer), and Craig Pearce (co-writer).
- Director’s Gallery and Cinematographer’s Gallery
- Interview with Catherine Martin, Production Designer
- Two TV Trailers
- Cast and Crew Interviews
- Music Videos: “Young Hearts Run Free” by Kym Mazelle, and “Kissing You”, by Des’ree.