William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (Blu-ray)
“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
William Shakespeare , Romeo and Juliet: Prologue
These are the opening lines to one of the most popular plays in the world, and thus beginning the tragic tale (and film) of ROMEO + JULIET. At a party held by the Capulet family, the two teenagers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, meet and fall in love, only to find out they are from each other’s feuding families and are supposed to be mortal enemies. Through a series of unfortunate and tragic events, the two end up dying for their love after being together for a very short time. This is by far and away one of the most depressing yet beautiful things you will ever read or watch.
When I first saw this film back in 1996 I was completely blown away. Never had this William Shakespeare play been so enthralling until I watched ROMEO + JULIET. This was the first time I remember seeing Leonardo DiCaprio on film and I found his performance mesmerizing. He was the perfect Romeo partnered with a perfect Juliet in Claire Danes. Their interpretation of the famous star-crossed lovers is what brought the Shakespeare play to life for me. Although I must admit, it was full of more teen angst than I remember, but watching it again reminded me how glad I am that the teenage years are behind me. It was also great to see how far DiCaprio has come as an actor. In this film he is so young and, for lack of a better term, unrefined. His movements are fling-y and voice a little whiny, but that turns out to be a great interpretation of Romeo.
Even though it is a bit strange to watch a modern day take on the play to go along with the Shakespearean English, Baz Luhrmann managed to pull it off effortlessly. Not only were the performances top notch, the visuals were absolutely stunning. In each of his films, Luhrmann manages to make every shot beautiful; it’s truly eye candy for the audience. The scene where Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time through the aquarium still stands out in my mind almost fifteen years later. And the scene where Mercutio dies and curses the Capulet’s and Montague’s still brings goose bumps to my arms. Luhrmann’s interpretation of this piece would make William Shakespeare himself proud.
Another aspect that brought this film to life was the soundtrack. The various songs by The Cardigans, Prince and Des’ree, gave a completely new dimension and depth to the film. Sometimes a soundtrack can make or break a film and this is one of those instances where the soundtrack completely heightened the movie going experience.
If you haven’t seen this version of the famous play, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Not only is it a fantastic piece of work, but if you have a tough time following along with the Shakespearean English (which is really tough sometimes) this will make it easy and enjoyable to follow.
Video (2.40:1 Widescreen) Gorgeous-there is no other word for it. The colors are beautiful and clear, this transfer is amazing.
Audio (5.1 DTS-HD) The audio is also great, the songs and dialogue are a pleasure to listen to.
Shaking Up Shakespeare Picture-in-Picture Commentary with Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Donald M. McAlpine and Craig Pierce: This commentary can be done with either Picture-in-Picture mode, or just normal voice over mode. These four are great together and give some really great information about the film as well as their creative process. This is worth a listen.
Uncut Footage from the Bazmark Vault (13:57): These appear to be Lurhmann’s special behind the scene stills and uncut scenes from the film. It’s still done very well and fun to watch as there are some really great scenes in there. They are broken down into four segments: First Kiss, Beach Scene, Unccut Rehearsal and Outside the Church.
Romeo Juliet: The Music (55:19): This is broken down into a few parts including an almost 50 minute documentary. Like I said before, one of the best aspects of this film is the music and the documentary is the part to watch because they go into depth about how and why the music was chosen. They really tried to make the soundtrack a character of the film.
Filmmaker and Interview Galleries(15:39): These are very short interviews from cast and crew members about their parts in the film. There are behind the scenes footage and very few movie clips. Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes and John Leguizamo are also included in the interviews.