Romeo and Juliet (Film 1996)

Religious Imagery in Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet College

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the 1996 cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, is imbued with religious imagery. The feuding families display such images on everything from their cars, to their clothes, to their guns. In addition, a statue of Jesus Christ looms over the city, bearing witness to the events unfolding. When taken at face value, religion should bring a person peace and give additional meaning to their life. However, throughout the film, the presence of religious imagery often indicates conflict and violence. Luhrmann uses the omnipresent religiosity to contrast against this violence and to heighten the sense of tragedy.

The religious imagery is indicative of conflict. Luhrmann opens the film with the recitation of the prologue in a modern interpretation in which it is read by a newscaster. In Luhrmann’s hyper-visual style, the sequence quickly becomes chaotic as the camera quickly zooms into the television then pushes through to an image of a street in Verona Beach. The camera rapidly zooms through the streets and lands on the face of a large statue of Christ, reminiscent of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. This statue is revealed to be framed by two large buildings which are owned by the Capulets and...

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