Baz Luhrmann is an Australian director, famous for his eye catching films. He is known for his Red Curtain Trilogy including the three films ‘Strictly Ballroom’ (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996) and ‘Moulin Rouge’ (2001). In these films he uses song, dance and iambic pentameter to create a heightened, creative world. A key part of his films in the Red Curtain Trilogy is that the audience knows how the film will end when it begins. His theatrical, colourful, fast paced films continuously enthral and fascinate audiences, making him a highly respected director. Symbolism
The film technique of symbolism can be seen in the film ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1996). Symbolism is used as a tool by the director, Baz Luhrmann, to help drive the narrative of the film as well as indicating to the audience how it will end. Water can be seen as a prominent symbol in ‘Romeo + Juliet’. Romeo and Juliet are in love amongst the chaos of their feuding families, water is their place of refuge, where they can feel peace and serenity. Water is first used when Romeo and Juliet first meet, when they spot each other through the fish tank at the Capulet’s party.
Water is also used at the Capulet’s party when Romeo splashes water over his face in the bathroom. This is essentially him trying to escape from the pressure and chaos of the party. When Romeo and Juliet first kiss they are in the swimming pool at the Capulet’s mansion. After the chaos of the party under water is completely silent. The water moves their hair and clothing slowly making it seem as if time slows down when they are together. Under water can be seen as the only place Romeo and Juliet are allowed to be together where they can escape their families and be together in peace.
The escape water presents is later destroyed when Romeo kills Tybalt, whose blood leaves the once peaceful water tainted. With Romeo and Juliet’s peaceful retreat ruined, their future together is essentially destroyed, resulting in them committing suicide as they can’t be together. Baz Luhrmann uses this technique of symbolism as the audience can relate to the peace and escape water presents. As Baz Luhrmann said in an interview; “It comes from a personal experience of mine. My father used to talk a lot and we’d be in the pool and I’d just go underwater to hide from him.
It was always so peaceful” The symbol of water can make the audience associate with where they go to escape the stress and pressure the world presents and disappear off into their place of peace. Baz Luhrmann does this to keep the audience involved as it is something they can relate to, which is a key part of what the Red Curtain Cinema is about. Baz Luhrmann also uses the technique of symbolism in ‘Moulin Rouge’ (2001). One symbol in Moulin Rouge is the bird cage. The bird cage symbolises entrapment.
In this case Satine is the bird trapped in Moulin Rouge but she wants to escape and become “a real actress” and experience freedom for the first time. Her desperate desire for freedom is shown through the song “One day I’ll Fly Away”. This signifies how she wants to get away from the Moulin Rouge. It also makes a metaphoric reference to her as the bird. This signifies to the audience the fact that Satine is more like an animal, there to be enjoyed by others. The lyric “When will I begin, to live again? ” Represents how unsatisfied she is with her life, being bought by men and selling her love and that she is not living properly.
When we first see Satine she appears from the roof on a swing similar to a bird perch in a cage, reinforcing the idea that Satine is a bird, gaining no satisfaction from life, but rather being inanimate, only entertaining others. Satine dies without living a fulfilled life. She is like a bird who is born in a cage and dies in a cage, living a life with no real meaning. Baz Luhrmann uses the idea of breaking free as it’s a universal theme and one which the audience can relate to. This theme supports the common idea that “The grass is always greener on the other side” That people are never fully satisfied with their life and always want more.
This theme is relatable to the audience as everyone has experienced the feeling of being unsatisfied, incorporating the key element of the Red Curtain Trilogy. Baz Luhrmann uses symbolism in ‘Moulin Rouge’ so the audience can sympathise with Satine, never experiencing freedom and dying unsatisfied with life. Costume Baz Luhrmann has used the technique of costume in ‘Strictly Ballroom’ (1992), to communicate important ideas to the audience using key elements of the Red Curtain Trilogy. Costume is used to present and develop the character of Fran.
Fran is the awkward, plain dancing student, who eventually begins dancing with the experienced ballroom dancer Doug Hastings. At the beginning of the film Fran is seen in baggy clothes in very dull colours, for example creams and washed out purples. She also wears big glasses playing with the stereotype of the unpopular, gawky girl. When Fran begins dancing with Doug her character begins to develop, she becomes more confident illustrated through her costume which changes. She begins to wear bolder, brighter colours such as red which shows her new found confidence.
Her clothes are also tighter fitting showing her as quite feminine, becoming more self-assured and confident with who she is. She also doesn’t wear her glasses, showing she has broken through the stereotype of being a ’nerd’ and is now a beautiful confident women. The audience are contented to see this change for Fran who they respect and admire her. Baz Luhrmann uses elements of the children’s story the Ugly Duckling in the way that Fran develops throughout the film. The Ugly Duckling is about a cygnet amongst a group of ducklings who was ridiculed for being ‘ugly’ but grows into a beautiful, graceful swan.
This story can be linked to Fran developing from an awkward, unattractive girl, into a confident and beautiful woman with the assistance from Doug as her dance partner. By using this story which is familiar to the audience, Baz Luhrmann creates a connection and understanding between the audience and the character Fran, as they can relate to it as it is a recognisable story to them. Costume can also be seen to reveal character in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’. Costume is used at the Capulet’s ball where everyone is in fancy dress.
This keeps the audience involved and awake as they begin to understand the characters traits and purpose. Juliet is dressed as an angel, wearing white. She is lust after by many young men and being dressed as an angel shows her as a holy figure, a guardian spirit and as a very kind beautiful person. The white also signifies innocence and purity. Romeo is dressed as a knight wearing armour. This shows him as Juliet’s ‘knight in shining armour’, the gallant, handsome boy who will fight for her and sweep her of her feet. Tybalt, who is Juliet’s cousin, the enemy of Romeo, dressed as a devil wearing devil horns.
As the main antagonist, this shows him as the evil villain. The character of Paris, who is arranged to marry Juliet, despite her not loving him, is dressed as an astronaut. This shows him as reaching for the stars, in this case Juliet, who he will never quite reach. The use of costume to reveal character is very effective in communicating characters to the audience in a simplistic way. Baz Luhrmann uses costume, representing character, in this simplistic way to keep the audience awake and involved, an important element of the Red Curtain Trilogy.
Seeing characters as common iconic individuals representing their character helps the audience to connect with their character in the role as it is something which is familiar to them. Music The film technique of music is used by Baz Luhrmann in his film ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1996). The music used in ‘Romeo + Juliet’ adds depth to the narrative and supports the action as well as highlighting important elements of the Red Curtain Trilogy. Although Shakespearian language is used, Baz Luhrmann uses modern music to help tell the story, similar to Shakespeare, who incorporated pop music into his plays.
The song playing in the background when Romeo and Juliet first meet is “Kissing You”. “The strong will never fall, But watching stars without you, My soul cries” This foreshadows the ending of the film when Romeo commits suicide when he thinks Juliet is dead, indicating that he can’t live without Juliet in his life. Life without her seems impossible. Baz Luhrmann always lets the audience know how the film will end when it begins and this song indicates the ending of the film. Also the song “Young Hearts Run Free “represents Romeos shift in affections from Rosaline to Juliet.
This indicates how quickly youth change their minds and move on. It also suggests that Romeo and Juliet are more likely to be obsessed with each other rather than to be in love. The music in ‘Romeo + Juliet’ is imperative to the audience and their understanding of the story. Baz Luhrmann maintains the traditional Shakespearian language in his film and uses music to enrich the audiences understanding of the plot. The music also makes Shakespeare more enjoyable for the target audience of teenagers due to the use of modern, familiar music, using songs which assist the telling of the story.
Baz Luhrmann also uses music to support the story in ‘Moulin Rouge’ (2001). The music in the opening sequence communicates the atmosphere of the Moulin Rouge, people go there for a party, a good time and fun. Modern music is used such as the Labelles ‘Lady Marmalade’ to appeal to the audience. The music gives the old fashioned setting a modern feel. The song ‘Sparkling Diamonds ‘ in which we first see Satine establishes her role within the Moulin Rouge, as being very materialistic, being bought by men and selling her love, that is until she meets Christian. The lyrics also have a very profound effect on ommunicating ideas to the audience. Christians ‘poetry’ can be recognised by the audience as well-known lyrics form the 20th century. Using Elton Johns ‘Your Song’, a huge hit in the 1970’s, as well as a medley of love songs for the ‘Elephant Love Medley’ such as Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You” and David Bowies ‘Heroes’ and ‘Silly Love Songs’, written by Paul McCartney. This has been deliberately used by Luhrmann as it has a profound effect on the audience as they already have an emotional connection with such familiar and famous songs which helps the audience recognise and understand the story in a broader sense.
TASK 2 Theme: Forbidden Love In the film ‘Romeo +Juliet’ (1996), directed by Baz Luhrmann, one important theme is forbidden love. The theme of forbidden love is shown between the characters Romeo and Juliet due to their feuding families (Montagues and Capulets) who are both feuding business empires who do not want Romeo and Juliet to be together but to instead be with who they believe their children should be with. This can affect the target audience of teenagers because they can relate to the control their parents have of them, being children.
Although instead of doing what’s best for Juliet the Capulets only consider their own interests. Romeo and Juliet are determined to see each other although their love is seen as unlawful. Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulets party. They are unaware that they belong to rival families. “My first love sprung from my only hate” shows how Romeo and Juliet are taught by their parents to hate each other’s family. They both see each other through the fish tank and share their first interactions.
The fish tank represents the barrier between the lovers due to their feuding families stopping them from being together. Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden love, despite being passionate and beautiful, is also chaotic and in the end destructive. Forbidden love in ‘Romeo and Juliet can be connected with death and violence and is greatly expressed in their suicide, when the couple can finally be together in peace. This theme portrays young love as being artificial, not worth dying for. As Romeo and Juliet’s love grows stronger, violence also becomes more prevalent between the families .
The fate of Romeo and Juliet’s love is strongly impacted by their parents thwarted ideas of love. Love is looked upon as a material thing, rather than being true love, the Capulet’s idea of love can be observed by the character Paris, whom Juliet is set to marry. Juliet has no strong feelings of love for Paris but is rather betrothed to him due to his wealth. This shows how the Capulet’s idea of love prevented Romeo and Juliet from being together and the strong impact Juliet’s parents have on Romeo and Juliet’s love. The idea of the incumbent adult world is in conflict and their kids fall in love, that the incumbent adult world uses the grand tragedy of their children because of their hatred, is happening in countries and towns near here. ” (Baz Luhrmann Interview, the Guardian, 2001) As Luhrmann said in an interview, forbidden love is generic in society. Baz Luhrmann established this theme in ‘Romeo + Juliet’ as it is a universal theme used throughout literature and is a common issue in society today. The theme of forbidden love spans back to myths from centuries ago. In terms of the mechanics of story, myth is an intriguing one because we didn’t make myth up, myth is an imprint-ure of the human condition. Romeo and Juliet was not written by William Shakespeare- it was an Italian novella and probably goes back to Pyramus and Thisbe (lovers in Greek mythology who were forbidden to meet)” (Baz Luhrmann Interview, the Guardian, 2001). The theme of forbidden love from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has been the template for many literary stories. Elements of the play are evident in the award winning musical ‘West Side Story’, a modern day Romeo and Juliet.
The story of Romeo and Juliet has also inspired lyrics in many songs, such as Taylor Swifts ‘Love Story’ which references forbidden love and Romeo and Juliet as romantic figures, portraying true love. It is also apparent in such literature as ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’. Forbidden love can also be observed within our society due to many things such as ethnicity, gender, religion. This shows how common the theme of forbidden love is today, a theme which is so relatable and widely recognised everywhere. Luhrmann is seen to have dragged Shakespeare into a modern context because of the universal nature of theme of forbidden love.
Character Reading: Romeo One important character in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1996), directed by Baz Luhrmann, is Romeo. Romeo is the melancholic, impulsive young man who falls in love with Juliet. Romeos love for Juliet is forbidden due to the fact that both their families are feuding. Despite this Romeo pushes the boundaries to see Juliet, showing him as quite a determined character. He also portrays the genuine love Romeo and Juliet share, he has to be with the one he loves. When Romeo thinks Juliet is dead he commits suicide as he feels he can’t live without her, making him dedicated to Juliet and loveable and endearing to the audience.
During the party scene we see Romeo dressed as a ‘knight in shining armour’. This indicates him being Juliet’s ‘knight in shining armour’, who is committed and will do anything for her he is prepared to fight for her love. This also represents the way Romeo is seen by many teenage girls. The character of Romeo is one who is admired and adored by the teenage audience (target audience). The name Romeo is instantly associated with romance due to the love story between Romeo and Juliet being so widely recognised, which Baz Luhrmann makes modern and relatable to the target audience. The dedication of Romeo to Juliet is one many girls relate to as being something they want, they want someone who genuinely loves them and will do anything for them, making Romeo the ultimate romantic icon. “Ultimately our Romeo is a mixture of James Dean and Kurt Cobain and that referencing is absolutely specific- the Hawaiian shirt and floppy hair. The coding and referencing is to help the audience understand where they are as well as making a new work in itself” (Baz Luhrmann Interview, the Guardian, 2001). Baz Luhrmann linked the character of Romeo to James Dean and Kurt Cobain.
James Dean became an icon linked with rebellion due to the film ‘Rebel without a Cause’ in which he reflected a ‘real’ teenager. The idea of rebellion is shown through Romeo in the way he rebels against the Capulets and the law to fight for Juliet. American teenagers at the time of Dean’s films identified with him, much like teenagers identify with Romeo as being the ultimate romantic figure. Dean was also seen as a melancholic and impulsive and romantically admired by many teenagers. This iconic status of James Dean reflected in Romeo, is one which the audience can connect with and recognise.
James Dean was killed in a car crash when he was only 24, just when his career was beginning. The death of such a young person can be linked to the death of Romeo whose death could have been prevented. The character of Romeo can also be linked to Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain was seen to express himself by breaking the law, upholding a criminal record. This can be linked to Romeo who rebelled against the law and the Capulets to express himself through his love for Juliet. Like Romeo, Kurt Cobain also associated himself with drugs, as a way to escape the reality and responsibilities of life.
Romeo also took drugs before the Capulets party to relax and briefly escape the madness of life. Kurt Cobain died at the age of 27, similar to the death of young Romeo. Kurt Cobain committed suicide like Romeo. Teenage suicide is universal, a common issue in society. “In 2010, males ages 15 to 19 were nearly four times more likely to commit suicide, six times more likely to be victims of homicide, and eight times more likely to be involved in a firearm-related death than were females of the same age. (http://www. childtrendsdatabank. org/? q=node/174 ) This shows how common suicide amongst young males is. Therefor the character of Romeo can be seen as relatable in our society today, due to the portrayal of this character by Baz Luhrmann. Romeo can be seen as a realistic teenager portraying elements of reality in the character. References: http://www. guardian. co. uk/film/2001/sep/07/1eo http://www. childtrendsdatabank. org/? q=node/174