In the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet, what is one character and one setting that are enhanced by the symbols Luhrmann chose? How does this symbol help a viewer's understanding and enrich...

In the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet, what is one character and one setting that are enhanced by the symbols Luhrmann chose? How does this symbol help a viewer's understanding and enrich his or her experience?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What an interesting question! Let me suggest that you consider the swimming pool just below Juliet's balcony, a potentially meaningful symbol that adds to the drama, tension, and intensity of the film scene corresponding with Act 2, Scene 2 of the original play. This pool makes the setting of the scene more dynamic and exciting, allowing the characters to move in and out of the water instead of just standing around talking to each other, and it helps reveal more about both Romeo and Juliet as individuals as well as their budding relationship.

Of course, there's no mention of a swimming pool or other body of water in Shakespeare's original text for this scene! But the director of the 1996 film, Baz Luhrmann, used the image of the pool as a symbol for risk, haste, and the potential for metaphorical drowning, by having his characters leap into the pool together, hide there, and, yes, kiss there also.

We know that Romeo was admonished not to rush into things, and that Juliet herself claims that it's way too early for their relationship to move toward marriage. As you view that scene in the film, notice how Juliet tries to climb out of the pool, but Romeo wants to pull her back in--this is a fairly straightforward representation of a relationship as a dangerous yet thrilling situation. Seeing these characters leap into the water together though they're improperly dressed for swimming, viewers realize that the characters really are jumping into the deep end of a dangerous new situation. The message is clear: like a swimming pool, young love can be thrilling and fun--and extremely dangerous.

While we're on the topic of danger, notice how tense we (the viewers) become while Romeo has to stay hidden under the water to hide from the staff members of Juliet's home. How long can he hold his breath? We don't know, but the tension foreshadows the young couple's willingness to take risks as well as their eventual deaths.

Finally, the pool adds sex appeal to the scene. (Clothes are clinging to the actors' bodies; there's water dripping off their faces; there are embraces and kisses both below and above the surface of the water.) The young couple's physical attraction and eagerness to express it may be something perhaps missing from the original text; it has to be conveyed by the actors themselves, and Luhrmann takes that attraction and desire one step further by including the pool. To put this more directly, if we were simply reading Act 2, Scene 2, we might not get the sense that Romeo and Juliet are attracted to each other. But the film director's choice to place them in a swimming pool together makes that attraction extremely clear, which enhances the viewer's understanding of the teens' intense relationship. The pool also makes the experience of watching the film more engaging.

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Romeo and Juliet

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