DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann
May Contain Spoilers!
“A tale of two houses, Both a like in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene. Two star-crossed lover take their lives…” Not the best way to begin your love story, but this is how things were done in 16th Century, English theatre. But is a literal translation of the text set to modern imagery and outlandishly stylised direction how it’s done in the final days 20th century Hollywood, that is indeed, the question?
Probably not the norm, but it works well here. In fact, this serves not only to revitalise the genre of Shakespearian adoptions for a younger audience, even the older ones, but it serves the story so well. This is a tale of woe, a tale of two lovers who risk everything for the love which they share, defying their houses, they status and their families for each other. Sparking civil war, or civil brawls in this case, in a world where the Broadsword and Dagger are a brand of gun, and the warring households are Venice Beach styled gangs.
Baz Luhrmann in an artistic genius, sowing these elements together like the Bayeux Tapestry, bringing the vibrance of teen angst to the fore with the shere power of Shakespeare’s words and melodramatic flair. This was also Leonardo DiCaprio’s first big movie, before Titanic hit that iceberg and I personally think that though a little irritating, he embodies the role perfectly, with the frustrated angst of a teen who cannot think past his aching love, the world must stop for them, regardless of the consequences.
Claire Danes is the same, though lower key as usual, but the lovers convey their emotions in a way which bleeds from screen, whether you like it or not. This was surly William’s intention? The supporting cast all prove to be more than adequate, but stand outs include the late Pete Postlethwaite, who as their priest and confidant is the anchor of their love and the film, but this is very much a director’s film, and Luhrmann laps it up.
Bathing in his own sense of style, he holds nothing back to commit his very unique vision to film and it works. The story is accurate to the point that besides the setting, a child could watch this and easily pass an exam on the subject as if he’s watched any other more literal adaptation. It’s a perfect example sacrificing nothing but still managing to create your very own version of a story. A magnificent adaptation if ever there was one.