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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2122  Thursday, 2 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Stefan Kirby <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Dec 1999 23:30:07 -0800
        Subj:   Laying the Sword Down

[2]     From:   Perry Herzfeld <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Dec 1999 21:22:51 +1100
        Subj:   Luhrmann's R&J


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stefan Kirby <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Dec 1999 23:30:07 -0800
Subject:        Laying the Sword Down

Thank you, William.

I have realized that I spoke quickly, allowing my personal bias to color
my words about this film. While it did not appeal to me, I recognize the
diversity of people's outlooks, and accept that everyone takes what is
useful to them from their experiences. So, who am I to gainsay?

> Promoting and keeping the channels of communication open seem to
> be better

I agree, thanks for reminding me of these things.  (I am not advocating
any kind of elitism, but it is so awfully easy to get caught up in my
snobbery (just ask people who know me!))

Sincerely,
Stefan Kirby

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Perry Herzfeld <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Dec 1999 21:22:51 +1100
Subject:        Luhrmann's R&J

I think there is a great danger when looking at Shakespeare to treat the
text as complete and whole and unalterable.  It is not.  Not only is it
permissible to alter (within reason), reinterpret, cut, etc., the text,
I think it is indeed desirable.  Shakespeare would have done exactly
this himself when performing to different audiences.  So there is
nothing wrong, in principle, with "modernising" for want of a better
word, Romeo and Juliet as Luhrmann has done.  Cutting was, of course,
inevitable given the time constraints and short attention spans of
modern film audiences, and many of the modifications (e.g., the
sword-gun) were very clever.  I particularly liked the newsreader acting
as the prologue, which I feel worked well.

But, and that is a big but, while modification is good in principle, it
is not always desirable in execution.  I wonder at the idea that it is
good for introducing teenage audiences to Shakespeare, more so than the
Zeffereli version for example.  Do teenagers come away from the film
wanting to see more Shakespeare, or more Di Caprio?  Do teenagers feel
that Shakespeare is not so boring after all, or will they feel that the
only way for Shakespeare to be made interesting is by setting it to rock
music, cutting half the play and over-romanticising the endings to
chunder-point?

Making alterations such as emphasising Mercutio's homosexuality (done
brilliantly) are well within the bounds of the text and genuinely
furthered the themes inherent in the text.  However, perhaps Luhrmann
went a bit far.  If teenagers need Romeo and Juliet to be mangled this
far for it to be interesting, why not just see West Side Story.  It even
has better music.

Perry Herzfeld.
 

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