I love the play Romeo and Juliet. It was one of the few books I studied in high school that I really liked. But if I’m being honest, the poetry went over my head when I was 13 more often than not. Luckily, a movie had just come out way back in 1996 called “Romeo + Juliet” directed by Baz Luhrmann. I watched it over and over. It helped me get what was going on and helped me pass my final. But I always wondered how close the movie was to the book.
So in November of 2009 I decided that I was going to find out. I read the play, then I watched the movie, then I read the play while watching the movie and paused the movie every time it strayed from the book. I guess I had a lot of free time and I wanted something tedious to do since I wasn’t in school anymore. Anyway. Every time a line was cut from the play, I highlighted it in my kindle. You can see my public notes for this little project here if you want. It took me probably 10 hours to get through the whole thing. It was actually really fun and a great experience. You should try it! Or you can just read what I found interesting.
What I found interesting from comparing the movie version to the play:
- The movie is almost exactly 2 hours like it says in the prologue.
- Most of the scenes that are cut are what I think of as the “functional” scenes with the servants, setting up scenes etc.
- Yes, the play is cut up and rearranged, but I was surprised at how many scenes are straight from the play. An example is Act I, Scene 5 when Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. It follows the play exactly.
- I loved how well the actors used modern voice inflections to communicate what is going on. Like the way that the guy in the first line says, “A dog of the house of Capulet moves me.” I can tell he means that he hates the Capulets just from the way he says it.
- I loved some of the clever updates to the play like the party invitation being read on TV (almost word for word, by the way) and the Newswoman presenting the Prologue as a news report (also word for word and only omitting the last two lines). My favorite update has to be them calling their guns “swords.”
- In Act I, Scenes 1-2 the citizens with clubs come to break up the fight. In the movie, it’s ladies with purses. Makes me laugh every time.
- Romeo asks what knight is dancing with Juliet and there’s the reference for his knight costume. Romeo calls Juliet and angel in Act 2 Scene 2 line 29 and there’s the reference for her angel costume.
- The rap that they sing with the line “A pretty piece of flesh I am” is from line 30 from Act 1 Scene 1. I did NOT think that was a Shakespeare line.
- I love how the director messes with your expectations. Like when Romeo is climbing to the balcony where we all expect him to see Juliet, but she actually comes out behind him on the elevator LOL. Another great one is when the lights come on in Juliet’s courtyard. It’s dark while he’s there in the book. The BEST example of messing with your expectations is at the end. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but it gets to me every time.
- There is usually music when the movie changes scenes.
- Romeo says “Your drugs are quick” at the costume party instead of at the end of the play and it foreshadows his hasty decisions with drugs.
*Sigh* I love this movie. Even after doing this whole project, I totally want to watch it again. Have you seen it? Did you like it?