Romeo and Juliet, the tragic tale of two ‘star-crossed lovers’, was written by Shakespeare in 1596. Baz Luhrmann transformed Shakespeare’s traditional play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, into a fast moving, modern adaptation, the film ‘Romeo+Juliet’. The original play used traditional, historical settings to appeal to and engage it’s audience whereas Luhrmann was able to transform the play into Romeo+Juliet by using modernisation and taking advantage of new technologies to appeal to his 20th century audience.
Both William Shakespeare’s play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘Romeo+Juliet’, the film directed by Baz Luhrmann intend to appeal to and engage their respective audiences by relating to their current time period. The setting of the story and scene is an important element to consider as it offers insight into where and when a scene is taking place.
In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version, ‘Romeo+Juliet’, it is set in modern times, with police patrolling and controlling the city as to Princes men. Luhrmann took the most informative, popular media device of the time, a box television and a news report and used it to deliver the prologue, which foreshadowed the tragedy and ill-fated romance of the story. Whilst television reporters took the place of narrators, the setting of the film compared to the play were drastically different. While Verona, Italy was the original setting of the play, Luhrmann set his scenes to Verona Beach, to give the audience a feel for the modern, busy, problem-filled city. Scenes were set on the beach, or in a mansion compared to a castle of bluestone building from the renaissance.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is set in Renaissance Italy, in a patriarchal society, a society in which men are superior to women in all of it’s aspects. At the time the play was set, people believed in magic, fate, destiny and fairytales alike, which was reflected in the prologue where it states, ‘ star-crossed lovers’, and ‘death marked love,’ which is used to show that the characters fate lies not only in love but death too. In the film, Luhrmann engages and appeals to his audience by showing society as it is, showing his audience reality. In the films prologue and opening scenes it shows police, public brawls and guns, to show the audience the corruption and violence of society. Even though Luhrmann changed this aspect of the original play it still fits in to Shakespeare’s theme of hatred, pain and suffering, a theme which resonates well with the right audience.
The modern setting cause stylistic changes in the overall design of the costumes and props used in ‘Romeo+Juliet’, the film. For example the Capulet boys wore biker jackets and ‘edgy’ clothing whilst the Montague boys opted for flow causal beach shirts. By modernising the characters wardrobe Luhrmann was able to have his audience relate to the characters because of what they wore and what their dress said about them. The wardrobe of the characters also says a lot about the society the characters are involved in and what life was like for them.