THE CLASSIC TALE FROM WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE OF 16TH CENTURY MORALITY, REVENGE, REDEMPTION & LOVE SET IN THE THE LAVISH ERAOF 16TH CENTURY VENICE FOLLOWS THE INTERLOCKING LIVES OF ACAPTIVATING ASSORTMENT OF CLASSIC SHAKESPEAR... more »EAN CHARACTERS.« less
Janice F. from BRUCETON MLS, WV Reviewed on 3/13/2015...
While I liked the sensitive way the film treated today's values versus those when Shakespeare wrote, I disliked the gratuitous nudity and brothel scene. There was no reason for it as it did nothing to either further the story or the give sense of the place and time.
the actor who played Shylock didn't seem to me to be "in" the role very comfortably and thus--to me--did not portray the character well.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeremy G. Reviewed on 1/4/2011...
Pacino is amazing as usual!
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Angela F. from CHARLOTTESVLE, VA Reviewed on 12/22/2010...
Outstanding movie version of Shakespeare, scaled down, taut, by far one of the best I've ever seen. All the actors are incredible. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Every scene is gorgeously lit, like a classical painting, and the acting approach is perfect for film. Naturalistic, charged, and appropriately paced.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Susan S. from LAKE ELMORE, VT Reviewed on 10/5/2010...
Excellent acting by Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino. Special features interesting also. Made Shakespearean language seem natural.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Tonia W. (tonia) from ARANSAS PASS, TX Reviewed on 7/3/2010...
This is a fascinating presentation of Shakespeare's play contrasting judgment and mercy. The casting is awesome, Pacino and Irons are especially excellent.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Hits the Mark More Often Than Not
Bruce Kendall | Southern Pines, NC | 02/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I approached this movie with some trepidation, mainly owing to the presence of Al Pacino as Shylock. The only Shakespeare I had seen him attempt was his lead in Richard III. I was less than impressed by his acting in that one. I'm also always a little queasy about seeing screen attempts at encapsulating a three hour Shakespeare play in a two hour movie.
While I wasn't exactly delighted at the outcome of this attempt, there is a lot to recommend, thanks to some sure handed British directing and acting. And Pacino underplays a role for a change (for the most part) and he handled his line readings with aplomb.
The problem with the script (and it is, along with MEASURE FOR MEASURE and THE WINTERS TALE, one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays to begin with, in that it is morally ambiguous) is the obvious anti-semitism surrounding the moneylender Shylock. The film actually opens with a kind of disclaimer reminding the audience that Renaissance attitudes towards Jews were not exactly politically correct. Shakespeare's script certainly bears this out, which is one reason it still attracts negative criticism on many college campuses.
The director (Michael Radford, who also wrote the adaptation) and cast handle this delicate issue rather adroitly. Pacino manages to elicit more sympathy than derision for Shylock. The only quibble I have with interpretation occurs in the trial scene, in which Shylock's insistence on Antonio's (Jeremy Irons) repayment of his debt (the famous pound of flesh) is rendered much more menacingly and realistically than I've ever seen it portrayed. It really does appear to be imminently possible that Shylock is going to happily flay Antonio alive before Portia or any other contravening authority, such as the the the Duke (acting as judge) can stop him. This is generally downplayed in stage productions, but on screen it comes across as all too real. It works as far as dramatic tension is concerned, but approaches "over the top" as far as aesthetic distancing goes(which is another of the underlying problems of transferring a text from stage to screen).
As far as characterizations are concerned, I was disappointed in only one director's choice. He cut the servant, Launcelot Gobbo's famous "Devil or Angel" monologue, which is one of the few truly humorous bits in the play. The scene with the younger and elder Gobbo almost made up for it, however, as Ron Cook serves up a marvellous comic turn as Old Gobbo.
The acting is generally excellent, in fact. Irons is solid, if not entirely convincing as Antonio. Joseph Fiennes does yeoman work as Anonio's bosom buddy, Bassanio. Lynn Collins as Portia is a positive revelation. Her transformation to young male lawyer is dead on. She plays a full range of emotions with utter ease. Hers is the one truly award worthy performance in the movie. Pacino does an outstanding job of remaining in character. The usual Pacino vocal and physical tics are nowhere in evidence. He obviously studied hard for the role and most of his choices are good ones. The cinematography, consisting mainly of shots of Venice in all its resplendance, is extraordinary.
Radford & Company certainly perform no disservice to the bard in this production, which is saying a lot, actually. I'd include it among some of the better recent attempts at bringing Shakespeare to the screen, along with Fishburn's OTHELLO and Branaugh's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. It's worth at the very least a rental when it comes out on DVD, but if you get a chance to see it in a theater first, I recommend you avail yourself of the chance, if only to fully appreciate the cinematography.
Sure beats my credit card's terms
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 01/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the high school English Lit experience, I've never been a Shakespeare fan, so I've rarely seen any of those of his works that've been put on film. Mired in the bliss of almost total ignorance, I'll yet foolishly suggest that this Big Screen THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is perhaps the most sumptuous cinematic adaptation of any of the Bard's plays to date.
If you're completely without Cultcha and you don't know the plot, it's late 16th century Venice and the import-export merchant Antonio (Jeremy Irons) borrows 3,000 gold ducats from the Jewish moneylender Shylock (Al Pacino). The money goes to Antonio's chum Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), who'll use it to impress and win the hand of the Babe of his dreams, the orphaned heiress Portia (Lynn Collins). But, Antonio suffers ruinous business setbacks and can't repay. So Shylock, remembering the public contempt shown to him by Antonio in the past and recently humiliated by the desertion of his only daughter to a Christian lover, insists that Antonio pay the penalty stipulated in the terms of the loan agreement, i.e. a pound of his own flesh, literally. And Shylock is prepared to go to the Duke's court to argue the legality of his case under existing Venetian statutes. Things look bleak and potentially painful for Antonio.
Filmed in Luxembourg and the decaying glory of Venice, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is an extraordinarily lavish feast for the eyes. At times, as I found myself losing the thread of Shakespeare's flowery dialog, I found immense satisfaction in the production's glorious costuming and sets.
Pacino, who, in the past decade, has played cops, the Devil, a pro football coach, and a blind lecher, steals the show with an Oscar-worthy performance. He's perfect as the world-weary, embittered, vengeful loan shark literally and figuratively spat upon by the city's Christian majority. Indeed, the film's creators have done a superb job depicting a Jewish usurer's anachronistic social position in that time and place, i.e. both needed and despised at the same time. And Collins is a revelation as the clever and beautiful Portia, the one character in the piece with any brains compared to the hormone-driven and doltish males around her.
Besides the obvious lessons of the story, which are don't co-sign a loan with your best friend, don't play loose with your wedding ring, and always go for the cheaply wrapped gift box, I was left pondering the evident anti-Semitism of the plot. Indeed, had the play not been written by Shakespeare, and thus considered a "classic", but rather something churned out by a Tinseltown hack and put on celluloid, the Political Correct, regardless of the historical facts, would be howling about stereotyping to a degree that would perhaps dwarf the outcry over Mel Gibson's PASSION. The joyful prospect of witnessing the PC's discomfiture makes this a film worth seeing."
The Quality of Mercy
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 02/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shakespeare's plays are full of the stuff of Humanity and Life: Love, Hate, Revenge, Death, Jealousy, etc. But very few of his plays have all of these. "The Merchant of Venice" (Il Mercante di Venezia) is one. And Michael Radford's film of "TMOV" is bubbling over, roiling and rocking with the Stuff of Life: though considered one of Shakespeare's comedies, this version is a very somber and dark reading of the play: a very, very dark comedy. Anyone filming or staging a Shakespeare play is faced with a dilemma: What do I do about the Language? Radford has directed his actors to speak in a natural and conversational manner yet they do not forget to savor the beauty or ignore the eloquence of the Shakespearean verse. Portia's "The Quality of Mercy" and Shylock's "Pound of Flesh" soliloquies and Lynn Collins' and Pacino's readings of them are breathtaking in their eloquence, delicate phrasing and common sense rationality: they continue to have real power...the power to move us. Venice in the 1600's is ripe for drama what with the Jewish population locked up at night and forced to wear red caps when amongst the general population, so as to be recognized and of course, ridiculed. But Jews were allowed to lend money and though not allowed to, charged interest on this money. And out of this ugly, discriminatory milieu comes Shylock (Al Pacino), who lends 3,000 ducats to Antonio (Jeremy Irons) so that Antonio can lend them to Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), in essence so that Bassanio can marry the wealthy Portia (Lynn Collins). Shakespeare characters are fully rounded individuals, neither all good or all bad: Antonio, though the essence of civility and nobility is also a slave profiteer and a bigot, Bassanio, though appearing to be a close friend of Antonio's thinks nothing of allowing his friend to enter into a dangerous loan agreement with Shylock and Shylock, though a third class citizen in Venice shows a great intellect and an all-consuming love of his daughter but ultimately loses sight of reason and mercy that makes him appear foolish and leads to his downfall. Shylock, as the oppressed is expected to exhibit nobility during the final scene that neither the court nor his oppressors would ever ask of one another. Shylock foolishly, though bravely expects justice from those who would segregate, taunt and revile him. This is strong, potent, dramatically viable stuff. Shakespeare/Radford's "The Merchant of Venice" is a stunningly gorgeous and profound film made all the more important because it is so contemporary in feel, thought and more to the point, ambiguity. It is to Shakespeare and Radford's credit that a play written over 400 years ago can still have the unmitigated nerve to stick in our craw in a way few contemporary dramas can. "
A wonderful adaptation with exceptional acting
Serena | 11/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I love Shakespeare, so I may be partial to his material. That said, I am not always happy with the Shakespeare adaptations out there. They have to be very well made, respectful with the original material and very well acted for me to enjoy them. Michael Radford's "The Merchant of Venice" certainly fulfills this criteria.
Having recently seen it, I must say it is indeed excellent. Director Michael Radford ("Il Postino") does a commendable job of adapting and directing a very tricky play in his first Shakespeare adaptation. While his direction is confident, it is also sensitive. From the exceptional cast to the production values, this is a wonderful piece of filmmaking from beginning to end.
Al Pacino, who wasn't convincing as Richard III in his documentary "Looking for Richard", now turns in a terrific performance as the Jewish moneylender Shylock in his quest for a pound of Antonio's flesh. While he gets to rave in certain bits, his performance shows admirable restraint and is powerful without being over the top. He gives life to one of the most famous Shakespearean characters in what could be considered a career best.
Jeremy Irons, always an amazing actor at playing angst, now graces the screen as the tortured merchant Antonio with astonishing command of the material and of his voice.
Joseph Fiennes, who played Shakespeare himself in "Shakespeare in Love", is nothing short of excellent as the Venetian nobleman Bassanio, the young man who attempts to win the hand of a wealthy heiress. Once again his classic training pays off in a wonderful way.
Finally, American newcomer Lynn Collins shines in the role of Portia, in a strong, solid performance of Belmont's wealthy heiress, who is also one of the most interesting female characters written by The Bard.
This is a lavish production, set in 16th century Venice. The costumes are wonderful, and the production design is amazing.
The cinematography is breathtaking, with exquisite textures, and the score is beautiful and effective without being obtrusive. The movie was shot partly in the incredibly beautiful Venice itself, which is quite a treat. Other parts were shot in Luxembourg, and yet the transitions look totally seamless.
Yes, Michael Radford does take a few liberties here and there, and many speeches had to be edited in order to keep the running time at 138 minutes. He also adds his own personal touch in a few places. These liberties, however, are perfectly respectful to the original material. For example, the suggestion of a homoerotic relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is there, but it is a very plausible way to interpret the original text, it is presented with taste and it is still a suggestion, not an affirmation -- it still depends on what you take from it as a viewer. I also liked the use of close-ups as an effective way of expressing what is not said.
On the subject of the play's anti-semitism, it has to be said that most of the characters are indeed anti-semitic. The film, however, is not, since we are given the exact context in which the story takes place by the introduction of a prologue.
It has to be mentioned that a good part of the comedy has been sacrificed in favour of the more "dramatic" bits, but there is still a great deal of humour in the film, even in parts of the tragedy.
It is a beautiful production: drama, comedy, romance, the themes of forgiveness, justice, revenge, friendship, love, loyalty, are all presented with feeling and a lot of taste. All in all, I cannot recommend this movie enough."
A subtle and sensitive "Merchant"
Jean E. Pouliot | Newburyport, MA United States | 03/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I love Shakespeare, I am not a student of his work. So, any movie based on his work has to telegraph visually what I cannot pick up verbally. "Merchant of Venice" is admirable on this level. My Elizabethan ear occasionally failed me, but I missed very little of the thrust of the play.
The entire cast was absolutely wonderful. Al Pacino was masterful as Shylock, the outraged Jewish moneylender who took his one shot for revenge at a lifetime of slights. Jeremy Irons' portrayal of Antonio was low-key, anguished and subtle. The rest of the cast was superb, especially Joseph Fiennes and Lynn Collins as the lovers Bassanio and Portia. The film deals delicately with the themes of revenge, anti-Semitism and honor. Director Michael Radford went to lengths to show Shylock as a man humiliated by injustices and slights. Shylock's twisted malice was portrayed not as a necessary consequence of his religion, but to a lifetime of swallowed pride, threats and abuse at the hands of the Christian majority. The play's denouement, probably satisfying to 16th-century audiences, was positively painful in the 21st. Still, that Shakespeare bothered to raise the issues of anti-Jewish feelings so long ago, and managed to criticize his peers in a successful play, was no mean feat.
"Merchant of Venice" is a master interpretation, true to its original, contrasting pageantry, sweet music and soaring beauty with forced religious conversion, arranged marriages and ethnic hatred. The film will have you pondering the characters' motives and logic long after the screen goes dark."