The Role of the Media in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet

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Abstract

Hailed by some and passionately criticized by others, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet (1996), one of the best known cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s story of the “star-cross’d lovers” has appealed to the young audiences because it succeeded in intermingling the delivery of Shakespeare’s language with the modern discourse promoted by late 20th century media, particularly television and journalism. Different types of media pervade the movie from the outset to its very end: the black screen at the beginning makes room in its centre to a TV set, which moves forward into the viewer’s space, while displaying a newscaster who delivers the play’s Prologue in a monotone; in a symmetrical manner, the image of the television set appears again at the end and we see the newscaster delivering the last lines of the play. After the lines are recited, the television set gets smaller and smaller, until it fades away and the screen becomes black. The whole movie is thus embedded into a news programme; the news story is located as the one which is being witnessed by the viewer in real time.

The paper will analyze the role of the television and printed media in the unfolding of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet, with a view to point out its impact on the textual and visual structure of the movie.

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