Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Unashamedly designed and paced to appeal to the youth of the 1990s, for a certain generation Romeo + Juliet is the film that transformed the Bard from boring english lesson into something closer to blockbuster entertainment. This is Shakespeare as a Fellini cabaret. Baz Luhrmann shares Ken Russell’s sense of exuberant grotesqueries and there’s no doubt this is a visual sensation. The use of pop music-as a form of communication is an inspired way to ease down the stylised dialogue. How can you forget “Lovefool” blaring, Mercutio singing “Young Hearts Run Free” or Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host” during DiCaprio’s woozy sun-kissed entrance? You can’t. Not to mention the countless individual images that are immediately tattoo’d onto your retinas. So good. Watching it today, the sheer sense of youth is quite remarkable and seeing Danes and DiCaprio look this naturally young, real and untouched is lovely.

That being said, I don’t think the film holds up quite as well as the years tick by but I’ll always remember seeing it for the first time and not really having a clue what the characters were talking about but still getting it and learning to enjoying the language. It provided an experience so strong and unusual that it made me dig deeper into the words, to explore and study them. It made me care. As a pre-teen this was probably the closest I’d been to an art installation.

Watched on blu-ray

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