147 million dollars grossed, Garbage and Radiohead as the soundtrack, Leonardo di Caprio as Romeo, outfits signed by D&G (Dolce & Gabbana line now set aside) and Prada suits, Hawaiian shirt, pink hair, Shakespearean language, weapons and feuds between gangs/families.
Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet’s colorful contemporary retelling – immersed in a world inspired by folkloric, religious imagery and overflowing with pop culture – of William Shakespeare’s immortal masterpiece Romeo and Juliet.
This context “provided production designer Catherine Martin – Oscar for Best Production Design – and stylist Kym Barrett with an incredible amount of aesthetics to refer to, while always remaining anchored in Shakespeare’s words”.
Everything is set in a fictional Verona Beach – a mix between Venice Beach, Miami and Mexico City – out of time in a constant succession of cultural references of all kinds.
We all know the story of Shakespeare’s tragedy: two noble families of Verona in conflict for generations, the Montagues and the Capulets, and that “from the fatal loins of two enemies descends a pair of lovers, born under a bad star, whose tragic suicide will end the conflict”.
In Lurhmann’s adaptation, one of the most important things to bring out was to clearly differentiate the two rival families at the center of the story. Kym Barrett characterized Romeo’s Montagues through bright and strong colors, Hawaiian shirts, dyed hair, workpant cargo pants paired with Chuck Taylors or amphibians.
The young Capulets are instead represented by real D&G uniforms: simple silhouettes, black pants, shirts and bulletproof vests/jackets both in leather and red satin, prints and decorations embellishing the gun holsters. They are all extremely well-groomed and haughty, rejecting the 60s/70s Yves Saint Laurent-style tailoring of their older relatives, an aesthetic ploy to underline the contrast and the generational split within the Capulet family itself. Juliet herself, played by Claire Danes, “dissociates” herself from her relatives by wearing softer colors and softer fabrics.
Leonardo Di Caprio’s Romeo is different from everything and everyone, for him as well as for Juliet, Barrett chose something that was “as simple as possible, clean lines and no decoration” as for the dress worn by Romeo to celebrate the secret wedding of the two lovers, a beautiful blue Prada suit, cotton shirt, and a tie with a floral pattern.
The combination of all these aesthetic features, studied in detail by Kym Barrett, and everything we described to you at the beginning of this article, made this unforgettable film one of a kind and absolutely unrepeatable.