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The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Cast: Al Pacino, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, more...
Director: Michael Radford, Michael Radford
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Politics and Social Issues, Costume Drama/Period Piece, British Drama, Shakespeare, UK, Quest, Revenge
Running Time: 131 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: French
    see additional details...

One of William Shakespeare's most powerful comedies has been given a bold cinematic adaptation in this film version of The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) is a young and vital member of the aristocratic classes in 16th century Italy; however, Bassanio's impulsive nature and lavish lifestyle have put him deeply in debt, and he will need at least the pretense of a fortune if he is to win the hand of the beautiful Portia (Lynn Collins). Bassanio turns to his close friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons), a successful businessman, for financial help, but with much of his fortune tied up in a sailing expedition, Antonio can do little to help him. To help Bassanio, Antonio turns to Shylock (Al Pacino), a Jewish money lender who lives in Venice's Semetic ghetto. Antonio has often expressed his contempt for Shylock, who charges high rates for his loans, and Shylock clearly seems pleased at the ironic prospect of having Antonio as a customer; however, instead of interest, Shylock demands an unusual security on his loan -- though Shylock demands no interest, if Antonio does not repay the three thousand ducats in three months, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of his flesh. This version of The Merchant of Venice was directed by Michael Radford, best known for the international hit Il Postino, and was shot on locations in Venice and Luxembourg. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Good Version of a "Problem" Play by talltale May 17, 2005 - 6:04 AM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Beautifully filmed using a palette of deep, dark colors and sets that feature tapestries, murals and ceilings of extraordinary beauty (oddly, there are few shots of Venice itself), Michael Radford's filmed version of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE also offers fine performances from everyone. Al Pacino comes through much better here than in "Looking for Richard" (his speech has softened considerably, and while he barely begins to do a "Jewish" accent, he blends nicely with the ensemble--sticking out only as much as would a Jew in 16th-Century Venice.

As much as Radford explains (and thus tries to soften) the anti-Semitism of the play, there is simply no getting around it. Converting to Christianity is the easy--and only--out for these Jews, but unlike the Spanish Inquisitors, the Italians didn't convert first and then still kill. (Shakespeare clearly treats homosexuality better than he treats Judaism. Antonio's feelings for Bassanio are shown here as nothing less than all-out love, and nobody bats an eye).

Well, this play is "of its time," and today we must understand that--and contend with that understanding. Overall, Radford (who also adapted the play into screenplay) has given us a good version of this Shakespeare: cinematic without lessening the impact of the language, using performers who get to the heart of the matter word-wise, as well as to their character.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.05)
66 Votes
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Shakespeare on DVD at GreenCine, annotated
It's hard to search for Shakespeare plays, so this list as of 12/07 may help. Alphabetized by main word in title; renamed adaptations such as Throne of Blood are mentioned but not listed. To see GC's own list, click any 'Shakespeare'-as-genre link.
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