In an assessment of Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, this article takes up the question of what makes a film adaptation of Shakespeare successful. The film has been criticized for its divergence from the letter of Shakespeare's text and its apparent lack of adherence to the structure of the play. However, I argue that these alterations enable Luhrmann to transfer the key themes of Romeo and Juliet into a uniquely cinematic form. Drawing on Richard Fry's interpretation of the Shakespearean text, I focus on the play's theme of the inevitable inadequacy of language to convey emotion and meaning. By deconstructing the play's text and employing cinematic conventions, Luhrmann offers the viewer a visual experience of emotions that were initially meant to be represented verbally on the stage. Transferring the language of Shakespeare's play into the visual and thereby offering the viewer a genuinely human approach to the emotions conveyed within the play seems to imply the inadequacy of language. This technique creates a stark contrast with the spoken language that remains in the film. By that, Luhrmann seems to underscore Shakespeare's point about the inadequacy of language and enables viewers to experience the Shakespearean verse anew.

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