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Baz Luhrmann’s film ”Romeo and Juliet”

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Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo and Juliet includes everything Shakespeare intended in his play: hate, violence, and a forbidden love leading to tragic suicide. Luhrmann has cleverly taken the play and enacted it in a way that includes all the main elements of Shakespeare’s version of the story, combined with the elements of a modern action film. Not only has he created his own interpretation, Luhrmann also is able to keep his film accurate due to filmic codes. In his rendition of Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann has represented the characters Tybalt, Juliet, and Mercutio accurately through their costuming.

In his feature film, Baz Luhrmann uses the filmic code of costuming to accurately portray Tybalt. Tybalt makes his first appearance in the opening scene of the movie, where he is seen wearing skin-tight black leather clothing. His outfit is accompanied by dark sunglasses, stunning metal-capped shoes and perfect, slicked-back hair. It becomes very apparent to the viewers that Tybalt obviously takes care to a large extent of his appearance: he looks immaculate. The image the audience immediately receives from this is that he is conceited and arrogant. Tybalt’s outfit in the first scene perfectly grasps his character in the play. In the original text written by Shakespeare, Tybalt is arrogant and egotistical.

By dressing Tybalt with expensive, flashy clothes Baz Luhrmann points out his vanity. It is clear that Tybalt thinks very highly of himself, and the audience is given the impression that a person who was this vain would react violently when their pride is injured, just as Tybalt does later on in the play. Baz Luhrmann uses Tybalt’s costuming a second time to highlight and develop his character accurately. At the Capulet’s costume party Tybalt is wearing a devil costume, complete with horns and a pitchfork. This insinuates that Tybalt’s personality is quite like the devil’s – hateful and revengeful. By using appropriate costumes, Baz Luhrmann has achieved in creating an accurate depiction of Tybalt.

Baz Luhrmann has accurately represented Juliet’s personality through her costumes. Throughout the beginning of the film Juliet is dressed in fair, light colours; mainly white. An example of this is Juliet’s white dressing gown, which she wears around the house, particularly in her bedroom. By wearing soft colours (in contrast to bright, bold colours) Juliet’s purity and innocence is shown. She honours her mother and father and is compliant to their wishes in the first half of the play. Juliet’s white costuming indicates how clean and untouched she is. In the costume party scene Baz Luhrmann again shows her angelic character by dressing her in an angel costume. This is particularly significant to the scene at the masquerade ball in the play when Romeo requests Juliet’s permission to kiss her.

He speaks as if Juliet was a saint, and he a pilgrim. This is enhanced in the film, due to the effect that Juliet is actually dressed like a saint. Nearing the end scenes of the film, Juliet’s costuming changes with her change of character. Juliet is no longer so innocent or pure: she has defied her mother and father, lied and refused her name; thus, she no longer wears clean white clothes. When Juliet goes to make a confession to the priest, she is wearing a bold and vivid dark blue. Juliet is no longer good and compliant. She loses control over herself and ends up pointing a gun at Friar Lawrence. This really signifies her loss of goodness and purity. By using costuming the audience can see Juliet’s personality throughout the film, and how the costumes adjust to her behaviour changes.

Mercutio’s personality is really outstanding in the film due to his costuming, which depicts his character accurately. Mercutio wears a very flamboyant costume at the party. He is dressed in a daring white dress and wig, which contrasts very distinctively against his dark skin. The costume perfectly represents Mercutio’s character: wild, spontaneous and out of control. Mercutio is seen as the lively, untamed character in the play. His traits can be contrasted significantly against Romeo’s. Romeo is reserved, serious and is a romantic. Mercutio, on the other hand, is cynical, fierce and does not believe in love. Many times in the play Mercutio can be seen transforming from emotion to emotion very rapidly, such as when reciting the famous “Queen Mab” speech Mercutio travels from excited and energetic to fiercely angry. In Luhrmann’s film Romeo is in a simple knight costume, showing his simple nature whereas Mercutio is wearing very vivacious, wild clothing indicating the deeper complexity of his character.

Baz Luhrmann was very successful in creating an accurate depiction of the play using the filmic code of costuming. Tybalt’s outfit was immaculate, showing his vain and proud character. Juliet’s costume changed with her personality, going from saintly whites to bolder colours. Mercutio’s costume was flamboyant and showy, demonstrating his rambunctious character. Luhrmann perfectly captured Tybalt’s, Juliet’s and Mercutio’s personalities and behavioural traits through their costumes.


•SparkNotes 2007, ‘Analysis of Major Characters’, http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/romeojuliet/canalysis.html#Mercutio•Romeo + Juliet (video recording)•Helium, ‘Movie Analysis: Baz Lurhmann’s Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’, http://www.helium.com/items/1067011-movie-analysis-baz-luhrmanns-shakespeares-romeo-and-juliet

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