Image, Music, Text. Notes on The Digital Video Disc edition of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo+Juliet’ by Baz Luhrmann


The DVD (or Digital Video Disc) has fundamentally changed “the way we interact with movies” (Barlow 2005, p. XI); the DVD is indeed a digital resource offering possibilities which analog equipments such as VCR and VHS – which had always remained a linear medium – could not offer in the 1970s and 1980s. The DVD can be considered not only a media resource but also, and most importantly, a space to investigate the fascinating dialogic relationship involving image, music and (verbal) text. In this sense, if, according to Brummett, “a text is a set of signs related to each other insofar as their meanings all contribute to the same set of effects or functions” (2006, p. 34), then the DVD stands as a “multimodal text” (Kress, van Leeuwen 2001), one where the visual, the musical and the literary are engaged in a fascinating dialogue which allows them to constantly redefine themselves. Interestingly, the DVD format was born in the very same year – namely 1996 – of one of the most fascinating and successful Shakespearean filmic adaptations, that is William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet by the Australian director Baz Luhrmann. In the film the poetic and canonic aura of the Shakespearean verses – which are pronounced in their integrity – is somehow transgressed by their contrapuntal juxtaposition to images and sounds belonging contemporary pop culture. In our view,  the DVD edition of the film – which includes many extras (on which we will focus in the present essay) such as photo galleries, music videos, interviews, TV trailers,  audio commentaries and an introductory essay by the director himself in which he makes reference to the strong relationship between Shakespeare and popular culture (Lanier 2002) – represents the format which seems to be more in tune with the film’s hypertextual quality staging its very capacity to exceed the world of cinema to interrogate our own age through the double lens of Shakespeare and contemporary popular culture.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v45p191

Keywords: intermediality; literature; film; song; pop


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