On a scene: Romeo + Juliet

Saturday, May 15, 2010 9:04 AM By Simon

I might or might not do this again, but I feel like dissecting a scene from the aforementioned 1996 flick. This is, as always, with the help of my trusty screencapture and zero knowledge on editing. Note: This is not shot-for-shot. Just the good parts.

Romeo + Juliet: Together at Last (official DVD scene title, okay?)

Romeo bursts into the church, gun a-swingin', and acts all grievous and whatnot.

After catching his breath, he opens the doors and peeks through, and for some reason, this reminds me of This Boy's Life.

What he sees? A church so tacky it's beautiful.

At the center, decorated in more candles than the Michael Jackson wake, is Juliet. Who's dead.

Romeo walks up, looks down, and takes a moment to look like a girl.

Cuddles up next to his dead lova, girls out some more. Aw, I kid, it's actually quite sad.

Rips his wedding ring, which he wore on a necklace for some reason, and shoves it onto Juliet's finger. Which is, y'know, quite inconsiderate, considering she's...dead. Yes. Dead.

This is necrophilia. Make a note of it.

Oh. Snap.

She looks up adoringly at her husband, who happens to to turned away. Preparing a bouquet of flowers, perhaps. All is going according to plan.

What's this, then?

He turns, sees her awake, looks panicked and horrified, but I was too slow to pause. Juliet looks up, equally horrified, but also very confused. Obviously, she wants to know where her flowers are.

Romeo starts twitching his dying twitches, and Juliet cradles him, still probably 'wtf'ing in her head.

Notices vial and lack of flowers, face contorts in grief.

Of course, he wants to know what she's doing crying and not being dead.


(there was some dialogue up until now, mostly a combination of his and her final speeches, tweeked to be appropriate for the scene)

She sobs, and now I feel bad.

Rack focus on over to the gun he had been clutching in his hand, but is now abandoned, just begging to be used.


She cocks it, abandoning all notions of life going the fuck on.

This is either horrible or brilliant acting on Claire Danes' part, that blank face.

Music swells up, we get a brief montage of their time together (you know, those whole four days), as the camera dollies up and over.

The scene ends with a still of their kiss in the pool, after declaring their love for each other.

Damn you, Luhrmann. Why do you have to end everything like that?

What I like what he did with this scene is, some will afgue against this, but he took out both Balthasar hiding outside, Friar Lawrence's showing up just as Romeo dies, the search parties, Paris being killed, all of that, and adds to it so that Romeo and Juliet see and talk to each other briefly before he dies. In the play, and a bit in the original movie, all of these things together gave the scene a frantic, chaotic feel. You got the sense that both of them were killing themselves out of confusion rather than passion, especially Juliet, who wakes up to find Romeo and Paris dead, and Friar Lawrence trying to get her to a nunnery, before flighting off to avoid the search party. Here, it's very tranquil. Everything is cut to the bare minimum: Romeo comes to kill himself. Here, after he dies, Juliet, with no Friar Lawrence, with no yelling from outside, just her and her dead husband, looks completely dead. That is, as I pointed out, she could either be emotionally numb at this point, or Claire Danes could've fucked it up. But I will lean towards the former for argument's sake. You get the sense that, if someone did drag her out of the tomb just then, locked her in a room for twenty years with no deadly objects, and let her out again, she'd do the exact same thing.

I think of Shakespeare's play as a cautionary tale against young love, because he added every aspect, I think, to make theirs look as unrational, maybe even as farcical, as possible. Here, Luhrmann changes it into what everyone else sees it as, the greatest love story ever told, with a few mise-en-scene tweaks. So, y'know, good for him.


Frank said...

I love this! Excellent job kiddo.

May 15, 2010 at 1:23 PM
SugaryCynic said...

One of the few "modern Shakespeare" movies that isn't a crock of shit. Good deconstructing.

May 15, 2010 at 2:50 PM
Frank said...

I always kinda like O and I really, really like Hamlet as far as modern day adaptations go.

May 15, 2010 at 4:15 PM
Simon said...

Which Hamlet? Zeffirelli, Branagh, or the one with Ethan Hawke?

May 15, 2010 at 7:21 PM
Frank said...

The Branagh one is great, but as for contemporary Shakespeare the one with Hawke is excellent. I love how they had Denmark a corporation, and the Shepherd as his father - his battle suit was that dark trench coat. That's a pretty damn good movie.

May 15, 2010 at 8:42 PM
Nick said...

I'd like for you to check out the version of Romeo and Juliet I made with my students (it's only 30 minutes long). I totally took the farcical/cheesy tone with my version that I agree Shakespeare has with his. Oh, and mine actually HAS Paris kickin the bucket, unlike the other two major films. Here's the link: http://dementeddoorknob.blogspot.com/2010/05/romeo-juliet-remix-movie-bloopers-and_29.html . I'd love to hear your thoughts, since you seem to be pretty knowledgeable on the original. Oh, and it's a modernized version... modern setting/dialogue.

June 1, 2010 at 2:25 PM
Edmund said...

There are many versions of Romeo and Juliet movies. It's one of my favorite. Thank you for posting those best parts. My girlfriend always cries when she watches this movie.

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