Sunday, March 15, 2009

Romeo and Juliet vs. Romeo + Juliet

Just because I have a lot of homework today, I'm using an extra credit paper I wrote for English as my blog this week. Enjoy!


In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare tells the tale of two tragic lovers. Romeo and Juliet meet at a party held at the Capulets’ house. Getting over his former lover, Rosaline, in a matter of seconds, Romeo dances with Juliet. They fall “madly in love”, and get married. Romeo’s family, the Montagues, do not get along well with Juliet’s family, the Capulets. Naturally, the two lovers can’t let anyone about their marriage. A day or so later, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, out of rage for killing his friend, Mercutio. This gets him banished by the prince. Romeo has a plan, however. He will go away to Mantua for a period of time, after which he will return and win everyone’s respect back. Things become complicated when Juliet’s father arranges for her to be married to Paris, a relative of the prince. Friar Laurence decides to step in with a plan. Juliet fakes her death, but word doesn’t get to Romeo in time. Once he finds out that Juliet is “dead”, he poisons himself. Juliet sees Romeo dead and stabs herself. The two families find out about everything and decide to make peace with each other, ending the play.

Australian director Baz Luhrmann put a modern twist on Romeo and Juliet in his 1996 film Romeo + Juliet. Instead of taking place in Verona, Italy, Romeo + Juliet takes place in the fictional Verona Beach. Instead of a family feud, the Capulets and Montagues are rival mob families. Instead of fighting with swords, they fight with pistols. Even though there are many differences in the setting, Baz Luhrmann still used the original script from Romeo and Juliet. The only difference was that it was condensed to fit modern movie length. It was actually pretty funny to watch gangsters speaking in Old English. When Mercutio did his Queen Mabs speech, I was cracking up! There was this punk kid on the screen going on about dreams and Queen Mabs in Old English. The director was pretty creative with that.

My favorite scene from the movie was the balcony scene. In the book, Romeo is watching Juliet on her balcony from behind the bushes. After a few minutes of listening to her talk about him, Romeo reveals himself. They talk for a while longer until Romeo agrees to marry her. In the movie, it is totally different. Romeo hops the fence into the backyard of Juliet’s estate. He walks past the pool and climbs some vines up to the balcony. You expect Juliet to come out right then, because, you know, it’s the balcony scene. Instead, the nurse pops out, and you can tell that Romeo is kind of disappointed. A few seconds later, Juliet exits an elevator and walks around the pool. Without being seen, Romeo follows her. After listening to her for a few minutes, he shows that he is there. He scares her and they both fall into the pool. After almost getting caught, Romeo agrees to marry Juliet, just like in the play. I thought it was a pretty good take on the scene.

I didn’t see the whole movie, but from the parts I did see, I loved it. While the director changed it to fit the modern generation, it still retained the same script as when William Shakespeare wrote it. It takes some pretty creative thinking to be able to come up with an idea like that. Not only that, but it takes talent to be able to make a good movie using that idea. There are modern remakes of movies out there that are nowhere near the quality of the original. Romeo + Juliet could easily rival the quality of some of the earlier movies and plays. Baz Luhrmann kept the original drama, but put a modern twist on it. This keeps the attention of most audiences. I know I sure loved it after reading Romeo and Juliet just once. If you are familiar with this classic by Shakespeare, I know you’ll enjoy watching this version of it.