It's been 20 years since Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio came together on the silver screen for William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. The film received seven BAFTA nominations, winning four, as well as an Academy Award nomination.
Notable adaptations of the play preceding Baz Luhrmann's were West Side Story and Zeffirelli's 1968 film. Each were incredibly successful, but completely different. West Side Story was a musical, so kept to the story line but abandoned the poetry. Zeffirelli's film was incredibly traditional, as seen with the costuming and setting.
The 1996 film, on the other hand, opened with the rival 'gangs' shooting at each other at a gas station, while helicopters hover above, trying to quash the confrontation. It's full-on action and drama within the first 10 minutes of the film.
The Bard's tragic romance has been adapted for the big screen so many times but this is one that stands out for a lot audiences, for a lot of different reasons.
Claire and Leo
Both Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio were very young when this came out. Claire was fresh off of starring in ABC's My So-Called Life, while Leo was just breaking into Hollywood, with his success in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and This Boy's Life.
The pair were perfect for the roles. A review in Rolling Stone from when the film came out praises the pair's performance as the star-crossed lovers.
"In DiCaprio and Danes, who give magnetic performances, he [Lurhmann] has found two actors with the youth to play the roles and the talent to do them justice. They speak the verse so naturally that the meaning registers."
The film has been credited for getting young people interested in Shakespeare again, making it more understandable and relatable.
Baz Luhrmann's visual style
Romeo + Juliet featured a big musical number, glitter, love, and lavish costumes. Luhrmann's films have been known for their unique and theatrical style, with R+J being the second in Luhrmann's The Red Curtain Trilogy, alongside Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Moulin Rouge (2001).
"Luhrmann incorporates traditional theatrical conventions into his films and morphs them to create visual treats in stories set in heightened otherworlds."
Everything in the film is over the top and dramatic, but it works with the way that Luhrmann sets the film. The lads carry guns, wear funky shirts and drive around Verona Beach in a convertible wreaking havoc for fun.
Perhaps one of the most over the top and visually stunning scenes was the party scene at the Capulet mansion, as Mercutio dances around to Kim Myzelle's cover of Young Hearts Run Free, just before Romeo sets eyes on Juliet for the first time.
The epic soundtrack
Because Luhrmann's films are like theatre for the silver screen, the music and soundtrack are central to R+J. The soundtrack featured The Cardigans, Radiohead, Des'ree; it was 90's MTV gold. With songs like the Wannadies' You and Me Song playing as Romeo runs to the church the morning after meeting Juliet, and The Cardigans' Lovefool playing as Juliet finds out she is to marry Romeo, the soundtrack takes you through story, capturing very emotion the protagonists feel. Luhrmann uses devices such as music and dance to drive the film's action and story forward.
Let us fall in love again to Des'ree's Kissing You.