Skip to main content

Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1996)

by Emily Duff


I know Shakespeare adaptations are very ‘been there, done that’, but one that I will always love is Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’. The movie is opinion-splitting, a bit cheesy and cares more for aesthetics than anything else, but it is a comfort film of mine and these are the reasons why:



- Soundtrack 


The classic guitar riff of ‘Talk Show Host’ can be heard repeated constantly throughout the film from beginning to end, giving coverage to the best underrated Radiohead song. Not only this, but ‘Exit (for a Movie) is actually used for the “exit” (end credits) of the movie.


Then we have the gorgeous Des’ree singing ‘I’m Kissing You’ during the costume party scene - a tune that leaves me humming it (less eloquently than Des’ree) for the next few months.


Lastly, honourable mention to Prince’s ‘Doves Cry’ which is sung by a young church choir. Any Prince addition to a soundtrack is going to be a winner, need I say more?


- Retained Shakespearian Language


Lines like, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight. For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night” always makes my heart flutter and its films like this that have caused my view of love to be unattainable. There’s something so romantic about that old fashioned way of speaking - even if it does mean you have to listen extra carefully to know what's going on and nothing makes me cringe more than Shakespeare adaptations that try to modernise the script. 


- Progressive in the Mainstream 


Arguably one of the best characters, Mercutio, is not only shown as a femme black man in the 90s but dresses in - albeit comical - drag during the Capulet party. While activism in a Shakespearean adaptation is nothing new (See Derek Jarman’s 1979 ‘The Tempest’), Baz Luhrmann had the credibility within Hollywood, after films like ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘La Boheme’, to bring this to a more popular scene.


- Imagery


Water is used as the film’s leading symbol through the Capulet’s fish tanks, the fountain, and the pool outside of Juliet’s window. Cutting to scenes of Juliet alone with little to no music and submerged in water brings a serenity that juxtaposes the craziness of the world outside her window that Romeo finds himself in. However, water also links the two lovers as we see them first separately with their heads underwater demonstrating their purity before they then meet through the glass of a fish tank - showing water as now romantic and an image for the pair’s naivety. Also set at Verona Beach, the storm of the sea becomes important during deaths as a show of pathetic fallacy.


Water then links to the religious symbolism. A more obvious analysis of water imagery is its links to purity and cleanliness - something important to the plot of unpermitted love as well as the constant bloodshed. Sin is discussed during the couple’s first kiss as Juliet comments, “Then have my lips the sin that they have took.” and Romeo responds, “Sin from my lips?  O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again”. 


- Cast


Nobody is going to complain about seeing a young Leonard DiCaprio in every scene but the highlight for me is Paul Rudd who managed to bring a bit of humour to the pessimistic plot. Though he plays a more minor role, in each scene he is adorable - smiling like a child at the Capulet party and bringing Juliet roses to woo her. 



Comments

Most Popular

‘Make Tattooing Safe Again’: Sheffield Based Tattoo Artist Exposed for Indecent Behaviour

 by Emily Fletcher TW: SA, Animal Abuse, Transphobia Photo Credit: @ meiko_akiz uki Recently, an  Instagram account  has been created to provide a  ‘space to safely give a voice to those who want to speak out about the behaviour of one, Sheffield based tattoo artist’. A  total of 40+ posts have been made by the above social media account regarding  one of Sheffield's most popular tattoo artists .  Thankfully, all posts are prefaced with a Content Warning prior to sharing screenshots of the messages that have been sent anonymously to the page. The majority of Content Warnings refer to sexual behaviour, abuse, and sexual assault. It is clear that there is a reoccurring theme within each submission, as many clients appear to have had the same experiences with the tattoo artist. Women, mostly, are being made to feel uncomfortable while being tattooed. One of the most vulnerable positions anyone can be in, tattoo artists should make their clients feel comfortable and safe during the pro

Eurydice’s Last Words

by Kate Bradley I do not want to return To sit in the stalls, Of an empty black box Strewn with petals Leave the ghost light on, Let it shine like a call home, But I will not come back To turn it off alone. I learn this as we walk Our ever so solemn path Our thudding funeral march, You think we’re going back. As I trace my old steps, I fear of the day When the symphony swells, And I land my gaze On you, yet you will be Enraptured by the sound, If you did twist To turn around, You would not see me. So I am not sorry, I speak out into the empty air And I am not sorry. “Turn Around.” You do, you look You think  I fall But I run on, Arms wide open To fall in love With it all “Perhaps she was the one who said, ‘Turn around.” On the X45 bus, back from the Tyneside Cinema, I wrote a poem entitled “Eurydice’s Final Words”, after having seen “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”.  That poem was terrible, so I wrote a new one, as my response to the beautifully poignant film.  In one scene, Héloïse, an 18

Single Review: ‘Tell Me’ - Jay Moussa-Mann

by Ilana Hawdon The feeling of pure betrayal and heartbreak is perfectly captured in Jay Moussa-Mann’s latest single, ‘Tell Me’. Jay Moussa-Mann is the folk dream we have been waiting for. A favourite on BBC Introducing, Radio 6 and BBC Radio Tees, Jay ’s sound is easy on the ears but delightfully addictive. With a background in writing and film, she began her solo musical venture when she released her debut album, ‘Little Deaths’ in late-2019, and since then, Moussa-Mann has defined herself as an artist with unbelievable range and promise.    ‘Tell Me’ is completely timeless; with notes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Moussa-Mann creates a folk-inspired track which is simultaneously heart wrenching and strangely empowering. Beginning as a simple guitar tune, ‘Tell Me’ builds with layers of luscious strings and twinkling piano, tied together with Jay ’s vocal line which is equal parts melancholic and divine. The song feels unwaveringly intimate; the lyrics ask, ‘what was I worth?’