William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (2004)
Critics Consensus: A respectable if uneven take on the Bard's The Merchant of Venice.
Critics Consensus: A respectable if uneven take on the Bard's The Merchant of Venice.
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, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Pacino is at least dynamic, something harder to say about the women in the cast.
This is Al Pacino's show, and thankfully his Shylock is absorbing enough to carry the day.
It tilts so far in one direction that the comic elements seem to come from another, lesser film.
Radford has rendered off the comedy to find the dramatic skeleton underneath. It is an approach that works stunningly well and is perhaps the only way the play can now be done.
A vivid, engrossing and defensible Shakespeare adaptation, a period piece that truly has a feel for a time long past -- and a place and attitude that are not.
Pacino's stentorian delivery and punctuating hands are almost parodistic, as likely to draw a chuckle as to elicit empathy.
The text is wonderful, Radford's film has some fine performances from Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes, and he makes good use of Venice locations.
It is really a pleasure to watch a masterful actor like Al Pacino wring every nuance out of the multifarious character of Shylock.
We see what an actor's actor Pacino can be: he's careful and watchful; respectful of other actors' timing; and says his lines perfectly, resisting all temptation to grandstand.
A richly cinematic and robust rendition of Shakespeare's pre-political correctness play about the place of Jews in anti-Semitic 16th century Venice, Michael Radford's film takes delight in dramatics thus pulling us into the story.
It has taken 5 years for Michael Radford's splendid interpretation of Shakespeare's play to come to Australia and it is worth the wait.
It's the perfect cinematic vehicle -- or at least it would have been, if Radford's adaptation weren't so unremittingly cloddish.
Pacino shapes the role masterfully. He not only rises to the role's extremes of villainous melodrama, he fills them, rendering them both theatrical and believable
It veers from real conviction to panto, but Radford is clearly committed to the play's relevance, while Pacino, the Shakespeare addict, is a joy to watch.
With a running time of over two hours, I was ready to pay with a pound of my flesh for The Merchant of Venice to close shop already.
Merchant of Venice is such a blatantly anti-Semitic work that a modernization seems imprudent.
Shakespeare needs no special effects or short-sighted novelties. Michael Radford's straightforward telling of The Merchant of Venice does the great play justice.
Audience Reviews for William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
This is a true and superb work of art. A fantastic piece of Shakespeare that anyone who is a fan, should see immediately. Director, Michael Radford crafts a beautiful and emotionally gripping masterpiece. A thrilling, engaging and breathtaking movie. It's tastefully romantic, sharply funny and sensationally entertaining. All the performances are in the film are incredible and deserve to be noticed by every audience. Al Pacino is brilliant, he gives one of the best performances of his career and one of the greatest performances given in a film adaptation of Shakespeare's work. Jeremy Irons is terrific. Joseph Fiennes is magnificent. Lynn Collins is a revelation.More
Saw it last night on DVD and my husband and I are still talking about it this morning: is it anti-Semetic? Can you talk about uncomfortable things without appearing to endorse them? I thought it was beautifully done; Pacino was great as the self-righteous man who looks to the law for his comeuppance and instead finds himself hung by the law--a wonderful take on the fact that the ruling class will always have its way no matter how just your cause. Irons played a somewhat cowardly Antonio...was he like that in the play? Don't remember. Fiennes was singularly unappealing as Bassanio. Wassup with that, Portia? The unbelievable bit of Portia and her maid playing learned (though young and male) doctors from Padua was so hare-brained it was like something out of a Woody Allen film (specifically the part in Sleeper where Diane Keaton and Woody Allen are operating on the dictator's nose), but that's Shakespeare, not Radford, so can't fault the movie.More
I've got a bit of a love/hate thing going on when it comes to Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice is one of his that is in the middle for me though because I don't like the story and It comes under the 'Women pretending to be men' category which is firmly in the 'hate' section but then I really like the character of Shylock. I have always thought the story should end with the court scene and watching it on film only confirms this for me. So in some respects it's an honest adaptation. It looks good most of the time although I spotted a couple of unforgivable fake moustaches (and I don't mean on the women). The acting is also very hit and miss. Jeremy Irons is classically trained and he knows how to do Shakespeare justice, as does John Sessions and a few others who are well practised in the Bards work. Al Pacino's performance is very good to, although I wasn't so sure at first. His does end up being the only good reason to watch though as others stink up Shakespeare to high heaven. Kris Marshall makes it look like a pantomime but then look what happened to his much hyped future career. Joseph Fiennes was obviously cast as a safety net after the success of Shakespeare in Love but his performance was about as safe as an asbestos gum shield. I can only imagine Lynn Collins was cast because Gwyneth Paltrow was busy. Not my favourite Shakespeare play with an equally unlikable film -stating that persecution of the Jews was rife in the 1600's doesn't make me enjoy watching it or make me feel like I'm watching an important piece of history, so for those reasons I can't recommend.More
The world was raising. Thunderous canyons shot from below to meet my footsteps. Forests rose and died behind my back. Birds evolved and turned to dust before me. The sky was fire and shadow, and it covered the sun like a closing fist. My hair was a wild brown spirit dancing in the tempest. My consciousness tore apart into a thousand different pieces, each shot itself like a rocketship to a thousand stars. The moon crashed into the earth. Humanity begged to be. Civilization threw its hands up. Existence screamed.
My body is an auditorium. Memory is music fading, acoustics wearing.
Starlight is taxed. Clouds rule the universe. The bridges I walk end before they begin. All the islands and planets are sinking. An air just above me is a melancholy fragrance, and yellowness stains reality. The madness of my flesh is annihilated. I am just a tangle of wires choking a soul, stranded in a breath and under the dead mountains. The edge is deep. I let go, and fall back into a flock of glimmering crystal angels. I dream that they are building me beautiful white wings.
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