Although Baz Luhrmann’s audacious take on Shakespeare’s classic love story has been generally lauded by critics and cinema-goers alike, the film’s dazzling visual aesthetic combined with its nineties psychedelic soundtrack has been much maligned by those who see the finished product as nothing more than a self-conscious, obnoxious, and hyperactive mess. Critics, who include the legendary Roger Ebert, turn instead to Zefferelli’s 1967 version as the archetype for Shakespearean film adaptation.

In truth, Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet – dated, sanitised and awash with tights and doublets – doesn’t come remotely close to capturing the spirit of original Shakespearean performance where the plays were executed at frenetic speed with modernday settings and costumes. Luhrmann’s sun-bleached Verona Beach backdrop, fireworks glittering in the portentous air, feels so much more alive and so much more visceral, whilst his unrelenting, enthralling cinematographic flourishes only serve to bring into starker contrast moments of kinetic respite.

In their first meeting, Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) looks upon Juliet (Claire Danes), her minimalistic angel-winged white ensemble heralding an innocence soon to be lost, and all the glitz which the film throws up becomes mere filler in the face of their profound and painful love, “Did my heart love ‘til now? Forswear its sight. For I never saw true beauty ‘til this night.” Each of their trysts is ephemeral, always curtailed, but for in the final scene when they lie together upon a funeral dais lit by a thousand lambent candles. We feel relieved that they are finally never to be separated; that Baz Luhrmann evokes this feeling shows that he has succeeded.


For Cherwell, maintaining editorial independence is vital. We are run entirely by and for students. To ensure independence, we receive no funding from the University and are reliant on obtaining other income, such as advertisements. Due to the current global situation, such sources are being limited significantly and we anticipate a tough time ahead – for us and fellow student journalists across the country.

So, if you can, please consider donating. We really appreciate any support you’re able to provide; it’ll all go towards helping with our running costs. Even if you can't support us monetarily, please consider sharing articles with friends, families, colleagues - it all helps!

Thank you!