By Jamilla Thomas (Virginia, USA)
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet is a movie adaptation of the famous play of the same name. The romantic drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet, is twisted to fit a more modern audience in the 90s. A few changes have been made such as the setting being Verona Beach instead of the city Verona, Italy. All outfits and weapons are based on the time of the movie’s release instead of the 1590s setting of the original.
The first scene is of a newscaster on a TV. As the camera zooms in, she describes what the story will be about. In modern-day Verona Beach a young Romeo Montague of the Montague household, after being heartbroken by a love interest, Rosaline, is invited by his best friend Mercutio to a party to ease his woes. At the party, hosted by the Capulet household, the young teen is enraptured by a beautiful girl whom he comes to fancy. They share a dance and exchange sweet words but at the end of the night Romeo comes to find that the lady he’s fallen for is none other than Juliet Capulet. Juliet herself learns of Romeo’s identity and is now confused and unsure of what she should do.
The two meet later that night and fall for each other even more, eventually getting married the next day. But tensions rise between their families and turmoil ensues, leading to Romeo committing a crime and being exiled. The passionate lovers can’t bear the distance between the two. Juliet and Father Lawrence devise a plan for her to fake her death in order to escape her life. However word gets to Romeo, unbeknownst to him it’s only a charade, and he rushes to Juliet’s side at her wake. The movie ends bitterly with the newscaster once again narrating the events that occurred toward the end.
In film-making there is a term called Mise-en-Scéne which is the overall “look” of the film. From lighting, to the actors, to the sounds you hear throughout the movie, it’s all a part of Mise-en-Scéne. Romeo + Juliet has beautiful visuals which in my opinion holds a bit of a “romantic-gothic” aesthetic. The music perfectly invigorates the intended emotions with the sound of orchestras conveying the intense passion in the movie.
Another point is that the actors are perfectly suited for their roles as well. Their expressions and actions serve as the most suitable visual aids in telling a story, that of which dialogue may not be easily understood to those untrained in literature. This movie is well portrayed and deserves at least one look for those interested in either the romance, the drama, the literature, or all three.
I find this movie to be breathtaking. The delivery is amazing and the portrayal in this adaptation makes it all the more interesting for the youth of this generation. One criticism I do have is the story being taken to literally. Many find the romance in the story as something to strive for. Romeo and Juliet were both too young (Romeo being 16 and Juliet 13) and their portrayal of “love” isn’t that in the slightest. They have only known each other for all of 3 days and their relationship was very unhealthy. As someone who understands that, this is an outstanding movie that will awe those from teens to history and linguistic enthusiasts and I find it to be a must watch at least once in a lifetime.