Romeo and Juliet (Film 1996)

Appropriating Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

In the 1997 film, Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann has attempted to take the original play by William Shakespeare, and create an appropriation of it for today. He takes what we value about the text: the themes, evocative language and poetry, the timeless storyline and humor, and places it in a context which is accessible and appealing to the audience of today. For this appropriation to be successful, the constant aim was putting things in terms we (especially young people) can identify with, in things appropriate to today. Through the use of the film medium, Baz Luhrmann gained access to varied editing styles, different casting, costume and set design, soundtrack, and camera techniques, which all helped in presenting the story with an updated view, while still retaining its cultural significance.

Just as going to see a play was popular culture in Shakespearean times, seeing a film at the cinema is a very popular form of entertainment today. Luhrmann most likely chose this new medium because of its ability to reach the widest range of audiences – whether they be the “aristocrats and academics” (today’s film critics) or the “slaves and peasants” (teenagers!) By using film he’s making it accessible and appealing to as many as possible,...

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