"Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo..."
"I take thee at thy word!" SPLASH! Romeo and Juliet both fall into the swimming pool and perform most of the "balcony scene" there. many purists might find this unacceptable - Juliet, dripping wet, treading water and speaking some of Shakespeare's most famous lines. The scene, however, like most of the movie, in spite of its unique setting retains so much of the spirit and flavor of Shakespeare's text, not to mention the actual words, that most Shakespeare fans will wholeheartedly approve.
The balcony scene actually begins with Romeo scaling a trellis to hopefully see fair Juliet, only to be shocked by a sudden view of the nurse. He then descends, Juliet begins the famous soliloquy and most of the scene unfolds in the swimming pool. As if to please the traditionalists the scene ends with Juliet on the balcony and Romeo below. He even climbs the trellis once more and receives a necklace. It is this kind of touch which gives the modern science - fiction- like version the kind of richness and sophistication that one expects from Shakespeare.
The language was not modernized in the '96 version and this helps to retain the classic sophistication of Shakespeare. Baz Lurhaman keeps the verbatim text of Shakespeare, editing it and shaping it but not adulterating it. Even the most intense, violent scenes were made more like the Romeo and Juliet we know and love by the familiar melody of iambic pentameter, "I do protest, I never injured thee."
In some instances the change of setting seemed to be appealing to the public's taste for low, coarse behavior. Mercutio seemed more crude than necessary and Juliet's parents seemed to have little affection for her until she was presumed dead. Again it was the language which would rescue each scene. After Lord Capulet's crude dancing and drunken behavior he speaks so eloquently to Tybalt, "I shall not be foresworn," that he regains his dignity.
So three cheers for...