The 1996 Baz Luhrmann film, “Romeo and Juliet” begins in complete silence and uses a black establishing shot. This is to grab the attention of the audience in a subtle, yet effective way. The silence intrigues the viewer, as it is unusual in a film to have such pauses, It is a great for atmosphere or tension. A television is then shown in the centre of the screen. The television is relatively old and has disruption. The television produces the impression that the film is in a new or in a modern style and therefore interests the viewer.
This contradiction of old and new is interesting and tends to allow the film to be interesting for both young and old. After a matter of seconds the television is as if by magic switched on and a woman appears on the screen. The woman on the television screen is in a news report; this television broadcast is used to engage a modern audience. The woman is reading the prologue of the original play. The camera gradually zooms toward the television to create dramatic tension or a climax.
When the woman is drawing to the close of her broadcast the camera zooms at an incredible speed as if going through the television screen and into the city of Verona, it then zooms through Verona to finish with a mid shot of a large skyscraper in the middle of the city. This high-speed montage of scenes whilst going through Verona creates excitement as the film opens. It raises the tempo of the film to whet the viewers’ interest. We then are introduced to the Montague boys. These boys are in a fast car to show that they are connected with high powers and have a large amount of money.
A tracking shot is used here in the boys arrival. This is shot, with the camera’s point of view being the length of the car. This view encourages empathy from the audience. This then makes the viewers feel as though they are actually in the car, sharing the Montagues’ journey. There is a mid shot freeze; “The Montague’s” is displayed on the screen just to reiterate the fact that these are the Montague boys. This is just to make the viewer understand very clearly what exactly is going on. If the audience feels comfortable with the plot and the events going on they will automatically enjoy the film more.
There is some loud and fast beat music playing in the back ground to this introduction to the boys. The music is placed here in order to excite the audience; music can alter scenes in a very dramatic sense. The Montague boys are personified in the music for interest. The Montague boys are dressed in Hawaiian shirts and have crew cuts. This done basically to leave the viewer to judge them from their attire; this almost creates interactive entertainment for the audience. They are wearing seemingly tough clothes. This makes the audience sympathize with the Montagues and almost feel at ease with them.
The audience needs a group of characters to prefer in order to dislike other characters. This creates a more intense or exiting viewing experience when these characters are threatened or hurt in any way. The Montague boys then drive into a gas station where they are focusing their attention on a group of young nuns who are running back squealing to their van. The Montague boys act in a rather undignified manner. This then makes the audience almost revise their initial judgment on the Montagues but still feel relaxed with the young men.
At this point the Capulets then drive into the scene. The camera is in a low angled shot to create a masterful or daunting impression of the Capulets. This then invites the audience to make a judgment for interest purposes. The judgment that the viewer makes will then determine on their interest in the characters. The more interest the viewer has with characters, the more the viewer will experience emotionally and therefore will be engaged by the film. A Capulet is shot getting out of the car. Only the Capulet’s shoes and lower leg are shot at this stage.
This is used for suspense. The shoe is part metallic to create a solid and impressive image of the Capulets. A cigarette is dropped and the heel of his foot is shown to stand on it with a metallic clang and squashes it to intimidate the audience. This is to demonstrate the power of the Capulet family. The camera tracks up a Capulet boy and goes into a close up to the face. This close up is used in order to show the audience the aggressive nature of the Capulet boys. This then makes the audience have another opportunity to judge this person.
The more views the audience has on every person the more they will sympathize with certain characters and therefore be entertained more by the film. The character is then introduced with a freeze frame and a caption of the name. This caption is used to remind the audience who this person is. The more that the audience feel they know, the more they will feel at ease with the film. This then creates a sense of comfort and the viewer can enjoy the film more. This tracking up the person creates excitement as the audience is left guessing as to what their facial appearance is like.
When the audience is presented with the face it is almost glaring which then engages the audience’s interest as they are wondering why this boy is so angry. Seeing the Capulets the Montague boys seem to get excited and nervous, this make the audience feel almost nervous as by now the audience should have sided with the Montague boys. The leader of the Montague boys is in the toilet and the boys cannot leave until the leader has finished. The Montague boys talk to each other quickly asking each other if they should talk to the Capulets or not. Eventually a Montague “Bites his thumb” at a Capulet.
The Capulet comes over to sort out what exactly the Montague meant by his remark. This makes the audience quietly hope for some kind of Montague triumph. The Montague leader returns from the toilet. He realizes that Tybalt is at the gas station. There are a series of extreme close-ups that flash from Tybalts, to Benvolios eyes. This is to recreate a cowboy or country and western stand off effect. This is a tension builder as it enhances the aggression and hatred the Montagues and Capulets have for one another. It is also for the audience to catch up or understand the plot so far.
This is necessary because the audience is there to be entertained, excited and interested in this film and would be unable to do this if they were not following the plot. The weapons in this film are guns with the brand name “sword”. It should be noted that the engraving on the guns is “SWORD” therefore when “put up your swords” is spoken it is meant as guns. A boy and his mother exit the gas station store and the boy is childishly playing. The boy says “bang, bang” and Tybalt, as an almost reflex reaction turns round to shoot the boy. This is to create an image of the tense atmosphere that the audience can see.
Tybalt is normally a very collected character and for a split second in the dramatic climax lets off his guard and is surprised by the boy. Tybalt turns to point his gun at the boy; this is to create high interest for the audience. This is almost a question to the audience; it is as if to say “will he shoot the boy? ” Tybalt then speaks saying “bang” to dissipate tension and the audience is allowed to relax again. This also lets the audience know that Tybalt has great self-control. The self-control that Tybalt has is supposed to impress and excite the audience.
From this point there are extreme fast cuts, which create a sense of chaos and creates this improvised violence effect. In this chaotic fighting Tybalt remains graceful, Tybalt is silent throughout this scene. The Montague boys are constantly screaming and appearing terrified whereas the Capulets are mostly fast and well contained. During this fighting there is a short number of slow motion shots. This is to release tension and draw attention to certain important images or moments. One image that is shot is that of a gas station sign creaking in the wind. At this point in the scenes there is complete silence around this sign.
This technique is for suspense and is a reference to showdown scenes in well-known “spaghetti western” films. The music around this footage then turns to that of a “spaghetti western” theme just to reiterate this effect. This gives the viewer something that they have seen before and is comforting to them. As the Montague boys drive off frantically Tybalt takes off his jacket to show a waistcoat of catholic imagery. This I think is a family preference. Tybalt kneels down in front of a car in a prayerful stance and kisses his gun as if to be worshipping it.
This is to show his obsession with violence as if the gun were a god or idol. Whilst he is doing this in slow motion the background of this scene is all in normal time to release all the tension for the viewer in order to keep interest. In the car behind him is a woman screaming and waving her arms around this is to create a sense of “calm in the chaos”. Tybalt then leans over the car to shoot at the Montague boys who are now on their way attempting to escape the gunshots. There is a short piece of footage where the shot aid is shown of Tybalts gun and the Montague’s car is shown in the center of a red cross.
This is also a religious reference. As the Montague’s attempt to escape they leave behind one of their family. This boy is left in some dripping petrol on the floor; Tybalt then drops his cigarette into a puddle of this oil in slow motion to create tension. The puddle of oil is on top of some tarmac, which has holes or worn away strips in the shape of a cross. This is a reference to the catholic religion of the Capulet family. The Montague boy realizes that he is about to go up in flames and clambers up and sets of in a run to reach the car.
Then there is a shot of the gas station going up in flames and loud choral music is played, this is used to represent hell. As this fire and choral music is played and there is a huge crescendo in tension a helicopter is shown to be hovering above this fighting. The helicopter noises are usually a reference to the Vietnam War. The end shot of the scene, Tybalt and Benvolio are parallel to each other on the ground underneath the helicopter with the “Prince” or Chief of Police inside it commanding the two men to drop their weapons.
As Benvolio and Tybalt raise their hands to drop their guns it is almost as if they are worshipping the Helicopter. This is to show that throughout everything the “Prince” always has supreme power over the violent actions of the families. Benvolio and Tybalt drop their guns simultaneously in slow motion, as this happens the music thuds and then stops abruptly to illustrate that the fighting has finished and so has the scene, it is also for attention and suspense to keep the audience wondering what is coming next.