Monday, March 9, 2009

Romeo and Juliet

“In fair Verona where we lay our scene,” a young lover sits alone preoccupied with endless thoughts of his unrequited love. He puffs his cigarette and squints up at the clouds as if doing so would pass the long, sad hours. He isolates himself in his own world of infatuation, and is “Under love’s heavy burden,” as he puts it. In his surroundings he is an enemy waiting to be hunted by Capulets and by fate. This is Romeo Montague, age fourteen, confused, romantic figure, destined for true love, hated by Capulets, and fated to die.

The new setting of an ancient play put into modern times is really what makes Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet so interesting. This contemporary version of the film allows people of today relate to the times of yesterday, and relate to Romeo’s character more effectively. The scenery of Romeo and Juliet is used very favorably to explain Romeo and his behaviors. The first seen shows the towers of Montague and Capulet, with the church of God between the “The two households, alike in dignity”. The only three things that both these families have in common is the love they have for themselves as a family, the hatred they have for one another, and their faith in God. This scene foreshadows the whole movie, and how love and religion comes between two families of hate. The scenery seems to change with every mood of each event. The first scene Romeo is in, he sits by himself on a very desolate beach. This scenery sets the mood of Romeo. He is a very confused young man, who longs for love with a girl named Rosaline. When Romeo’s parents pull up in the car where he sits, he turns away from them. Romeo is seen off in the distance from his parent’s eyes. This explains how Romeo is shutting his family out, and he is trying to cope with things on his own. Later on in the movie, when Romeo attends Capulet’s feast, the party scenery is very happy and celebrative. Romeo, on the other hand, is miserable. This scenery foreshadows the love he is about to meet, the fair Juliet. After this, the scenery changes to the pool below Juliet’s room. The scenery is very beautiful and it glows just like Romeo’s face when he sees his Juliet. The darkness gives the two more privacy from the world around them, and also gives the scene an intimate touch. Romeo risks his life to see her once again that very night by climbing the walls of the Capulet’s house. Next, when the two are to be married, the church is empty, except for a choir. This can be explained by the civil conflicts the two families would have if they knew of the two lovers marriage. There is no one to celebrate their love with them, because their families would be highly against it. After the two are married and Tybalt challenges Romeo to a brawl, the scenery becomes very dark and windy, especially when Mercutio dies. Romeo rampages and goes after Tybalt and kills him. The ironic thing is, Romeo kills Tybalt right under a statue of Jesus. Romeo looks up at the statue and mimics Jesus by raising his hands. He then shouts, “I am forgiven!” The whole scene shows how God was already there to forgive Romeo for the death of Tybalt. The quick action and dark scenery is used to show Romeo’s rage to kill. Last, the most tragic and compelling scene would have to be the final scene of the movie. The scene of the young lovers suicides shows how the two feel the only way to preserve their love is to take their lives.
Many influential people in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet dictate Romeos’ character. Romeo is seen as a frustrated young man who cannot have a woman he is falsely in love with. The Montague gang persists on him finding new interest, but Rosaline’s denial of Romeo’s love, reflects a great deal on him. He finds happiness in nothing, and he is very depressed because of Rosaline. Romeo takes the love drug (ecstasy) given to him by Mercutio as to ease the pain before they attend Capulet’s feast.

Mercutio is another effective character on Romeo. Mercutio is a playful character in this movie and is always criticizing the people around him, including Romeo and his youthful need to be loved. First off, Mercutio talks Romeo into attending Capulet’s feast. Romeo was not interested and found more pleasure in grieving over Rosaline. If it had not been for Mercutios' persistence on Romeo, Romeo would have never met Juliet. Another reason Mercutio was an effective character to Romeo was when he died. Mercutio steps in to beat down Tybalt during Romeo and Tybalt’s brawl, and ends up getting killed. If Mercutio would have never allowed himself to get involved, Romeo would have never killed Tybalt, he never would have been banished, and he never would have killed himself in the mistaken event of his wife’s death. When Mercutio died he put the story out of fates hands and proclaimed that the two houses were responsible for his death, “A plague o' both your houses! They have made worms meat of me: I have it, And soundly too: your houses.”

Another strong reflection on Romeo is his last name, and his love Juliet. He is a Montague, enemy of the mighty Capulets. When he first sets eyes on Juliet he is emerged into love by her beauty, and is over Rosaline within the very moment he sees Juliet. Romeo then comes to find that she is a Capulet and “His life is his foe’s debt.” It once again puts a burden on his love, but this time Romeo stops at nothing to have Juliet, and even risks his life to see her once more that night. Juliet has a good effect on Romeo, and he becomes more of a man realizing the love the two have for one another. Juliet brings out Romeo’s shallow desire to be in love, to an intense passion. She also inspires him to be the man she needs him to be. For example, when he kisses her and she replies, “You kiss by the book.” She is implying that he lacks originality and shows how Romeo loves by the book. He matures over the course of the play, and the two create a deep passion with one another. Romeo is greatly affected by her love, and even accepts his enemy as his family by refusing to fight Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. This event causes Mercutio to die and many following events to cause the death of the two star-crossed lovers. Romeos’ character also affects Juliet. When Juliet meets Romeo it is her first full-force toward adulthood. She takes her only enemies name in marriage against her families will, and fakes her death so she can be with her love. Romeo’s romantic figure towards Juliet has her making on the spot decisions, like marriage on the their second date, and her taking her life because of her intense love she felt for Romeo.

Tybalt is an enemy that could have put the story Romeo and Juliet into a completely different conclusion. Tybalt raises a feud between Romeo and himself right after Romeo marries Tybalt’s cousin Juliet. Romeo’s knowledge of the connection they share causes him to restrain himself from fighting. He loves Juliet so much that he overthrows the hate between her family and his own. This shows how Romeo is a very noble man and that his love means more than his families ancient grudge. In doing this, his best friend Mercutio is killed. Mercutio’s death effects Romeo with such force that he kills his new cousin Tybalt in rage.
Friar Laurence is the sole figure of religion in this movie. He is affected by Romeo in the agreement to marry Juliet and himself. The only reason that the Friar agrees to marry the two is to end the civil strife between the two families. Friar Laurence is also an aid for Juliet by giving her sleeping potion when Romeo is banished; therefore, the two lovers could reunite. The priest is very influential and a helpful aid in advice, making it possible for the two to be together, but the Friar also brings fate upon Romeo and Juliet. If the priest had given Romeo the letter in time, Romeo would have never killed himself next to his sleeping Juliet.

Romeo’s clothing shows a big part of his personality as well. He is a very laid back person, and he is very settle, yet modern with his style. In the first scene he is dressed in a black suit as if he was going to a funeral. This explains the unhappiness he was feeling after the denial of his love to Rosaline. At the Capulet’s feast Romeo is dressed in a knight costume portraying his characteristics as a noble, handsome, courageous, daring, gentlemen. Juliet was dressed as an angel portraying her innocence as a young, sheltered woman. Romeo is always wearing a cross around his neck and a gun on his back. This explains that he fears no one, and keeps God above all.

The cinematography was very interesting in some of the scenes shown in the movie. In the beginning of the movie the producers distinctly made it clear to show who was a Montague and who was a Capulet by zooming in on their guns and license plates that had one of the names engraved on it. In the third civil brawl they made the camera very quick to change from person to person making it an intense scene. This was also the case in events leading up to Tybalt’s death, but when Romeo was shooting him and screaming the camera was slow motion. This was very effective in the way that you really looked into what he was doing not only to Tybalt but with his relationship with Juliet and himself. Once Romeo met Juliet the camera made every scene with them together seem very intimate with close shots on their faces. Also, when Romeo kills Tybalt, he looks up at the Jesus statue. The statue is shown from a shot looking up toward it, representing that no matter how much power is within the hand of man, he is the power. The most influential cinematography was at the end of the movie. After the two star-crossed lovers’ take their lives, their bodies are positioned next to one another forming a cross with the candles that surround them. The camera shot is directly above them, representing that they were now in God’s hands.

Was the story of Romeo and Juliet all based on fate? There could have been many outcomes of this beautiful love story. Had Romeo restrained himself from killing Tybalt, or even waited one more day before killing himself after hearing the news of Juliet’s death, situations might have happened differently. These extreme behaviors that Romeo did show and did act upon is what dominates him throughout the story. If Romeo did not have such depths of feeling, the love he shared with Juliet would never have existed in the first place. Romeo starts out as a young man entangled in superficial notions of love and progresses into a complex romantic relationship. Romeo ultimately fails in his efforts to live happily ever after with his “heart’s dear love” “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

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