Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
This is a guest post by my wonderful sister, Marie-Therese Camilleri.
On a more serious note, however, Luhrmann ridicules religion through his mise-en-scène. The enormous cathedral statue dominates the landscape of Verona beach, and both families and the society they live in are undoubtedly Catholic in their beliefs. Yet adultery, violence, drugs and revenge are a part of everyday life on the beach. Luhrmann expertly juxtaposes this with the abundant religious displays, highlighting the hypocrisy of the situation.
Even in this, Luhrmann maintains the other elements of the Carnivalesque. The surreal element is ever-present. The Catholicism depicted is one which the audience will not be able to recognize. Hawaiian shirts covered in religious images, a priest with a large tattoo on his back, neon-lit crosses inside the cathedral and choral versions of Prince pop songs as an accompaniment to mass are all exaggerated versions of reality, taking it to the extreme, just like everything else in the carnival world.
Of all the elements of the Carnivalesque, the most predominant would probably be that of images related to the body. Ever exaggerated, images of the human body associated with consumption of food and drink as well as with sexual life play an important role in creating the carnival atmosphere. Such images form part of what is known as grotesque realism, in which ‘the carnal, the comic and the cosmic all coincide in a revolution’. The body and all that it does materially are regarded as something universal, belonging to all humans and therefore something positive. The most common themes of such images of bodily life are growth, fertility and abundance, and these themes are also manifested in the films in question.
In both Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! Luhrmann creates a world for his audience to walk into and understand without need for explanation. In the Capulet ball scene, we are shown a Bacchanalian feast full of grotesque imagery which is only excessively enhanced by the effects of Romeo’s drug-use. The same goes for the dizzying scenes of grotesque decadence during a night at the Moulin Rouge, with the camera focusing on the drunken and sweaty faces of the men alongside the bountiful curves and figures of the dancers.
The films, just like Carnival itself, are a bombardment of images and sounds, an assault of the senses. Unabashed in their excesses of sensation, they celebrate the Carnivalesque amid passionate dances, bawdy, beautiful courtesans and doomed romances. They are set in highly theatrical, almost fantasy worlds brimming with grotesque realism. They are fanciful feasts for the eyes, just as Luhrmann intended.
 Morris, Pam, The Bakhtin Reader (Hodder Education 1997), p. 200.  Mark M. Hennelly, Jr., Victorian Literature and Culture 30.1 (2002), p. 368
Mark M. Hennelly, Jr., Victorian Literature and Culture 30.1 (2002), pp. 365-381