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I agree with post #7, if you want to sell the relevance of the story to high school students and build up some 'hype' to create interest, I would show the Baz Luhrmann version with Leonardo DiCaprio. It reinvents the setting, but delivers the action, the characters, and the script in a very genuine way.
You may be referring to the "original version" as the one directed and co-written by Franco Zeffirelli, however films made about Romeo and Juliet are abundant, beginning in the early 1900s. So, it is impossible to accurately answer this question.
Assuming that the reference is to the 1968 production of Zeffirelli, this more traditional replication of the Renaissance couple is more appealing to one who delights in the beauty of the language of Shakespeare. But, West Side Story and the DiCaprio version are sometimes ways to attract younger students to the storyline.
I like watching many different versions of a movie or play. For example, I just saw a live theatrical version of the play set in California before the Civil War. It was still the same story, but everyone was wearing cowboy boots and there was a gun. The language was mostly the same, but every once in a while they’d throw a Spanish word in there. It always interests me to see how different versions of the same story are told!
The 1996 version is the one that captures the interest of students, so I show parts of it while reading and discussing the play in class. There are a few elements that are missing from the climax and ending in the 1996 version, though, that must be pointed out for students; but on the whole, they prefer the DiCaprio version. I showed one part of the 1968 version to them and it was relatively tame to today's kids who see and do more killing in video games than we can imagine. They thought the 1968 version was dull.
I much prefer the original to the Dicaprio version, although I don't have anything against Dicaprio. I understand the intent of his version, but to hear Shakespeare's language out of context just doesn't work for me. I can see why students would like it better, though.
I had my doubts about the 1996 version, as with any modernized version of Shakespeares plays. But I have to confess that I enjoyed it, probably more than the 1960s version that I remember from high school. On another note, there is a new version coming out later this year, it will be interesting to see how it approaches the play:
I must say that each has their own place. The 1996 adaptation puts a wonderful modern twist on the original text and filmatic adaptation. The use of the guns as swords is very creative. I can not say that I would prefer one over the other based upon the fact that they only share a story-line. Each is great in its own way.
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