How Is Meaning Achieved In The Petrol Station Scene Of Baz Luhrmans Romeo And Juliet?

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade February 2002

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Shakespeare is one of the best known play writers of all time. Although it has been many centuries since his death his work is still studied by every student in Britain, as well around the globe. As such is his genius, a man called Baz Luhrman transformed and modernised Shakespeares greatest script, 'Romeo and Juliet.' into a quality film.

Throughout this essay, we will analyse Luhrmans introduction petrol scene and look for the connotative meanings planted in various places of the scene to sub-conscience impressions of the characters and their familles.

There is one factor that instantly separates the two familles, Capulet and Montague, this is the way they dress. Simply because of what they're wearing we get an insight of the personality of both the families.

For instance, the first time we see the Montague boys we see them wearing baggy shorts and Hawaiian style shirts, which are left unbuttoned.

Their hair is also un-neat and is in a kind of punk style, outrageously coloured if you will. Body piercing also added to this punk effect. With this style of clothing not many members of the audience are going to take them seriously.

The Capulet boys however, dress very differently, and with this, give quite a different impression. They are all dressed very neatly in suits, and are well presented with things like neatly trimmed facial hair and combed back hair. This can make us, the audience, believe that they are more serious and professional in every thing they do. And with their strong sense of professionalism it makes the Capulet boys appear more intimidating.

Another way in which we get to know the personalities of the two families is through the music associated with them. As soon as the first scene begins a kind of rock, or punk music begins. This is a very young and immature style of music and this rubs off on the Montague boys making them also look young and immature. Again this is sub-consciencely telling us not to take them seriously.

When the Capulet boys appear the music changes into a Western type of music. It is this type of music which is traditionally associated with cowboys, shoot-outs and generally danger, and so we are lead to believe that there will soon be some kind of confrontation.

It is no secret that facial expressions usually show what a person is feeling, and so, to some extent we can see what kind of personality a character has from the expressions they make.

The Montague boys start the scene laughing and joking, this, is another way we see that they are not supposed to be taken seriously. But as soon as the Capulet boys turn up, the Montague faces are filled with fear. However, when Benvolio returns they appear relieved, showing they feel the need for protection. This is a childish feeling, and so we are made to feel they should not be respected as much as the Capulets.

Throughout the scene the Capulets remain calm, and barely blink an eye when guns start to blaze. This shows that they are used to fighting, and so can be quite professional about it. This makes them a much more frightening prospect.

With these different facial expressions comes different body language. Right from the first second the two familles met the Montagues appeared to be clumsy, and more of a danger to themselves than to the Capulets. Luhrman also mocked the Capulets by letting one of them be hit round the head by an old woman with a handbag, he speeded up the seen as well to add to the humour.

The Capulets on the other hand, never put a foot wrong, they looked graceful whilst using their guns making them appear a lot more lethal. Luhrman added to this graceful effect by using sound effects, as the Capulets moved during the shoot-out we could hear the air rippling, which demonstrated their speed.

Symbols were also used to give a little more personality to the characters. The guns in the scene are very important. We see the handles of the guns on both families, and on these handles each family has their own family name engraved in the coat of arms. This indicates that both families are equal. Luhrman has also used the guns in a comical manor. On the side of each gun is the word 'sword,' and obviously in Shakespeares time there were no revolvers, only swords, so in a way these guns are the modern equivalent.

The Capulets are also wearing many symbolic items such as holy crosses. But the question that must be asked id 'are the Capulets worshiping Christianity, or themselves?' I say this because it is clear they do not abide by Gods commandments, (we instantly see them murder a person,) but they still clearly embrace the religion.

After breaking down the scene it is now clear to us that there are in fact many hidden connotative meanings which give us different impressions of the characters and what we think may happen. Baz Luhrman has obviously thought a lot about what goes into the scene, and how exactly to pull everything together to make the film much more intresting and enjoyable.