The Merchant of Venice

2004

Drama / Romance

0
IMDb Rating 7 10 35149

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
March 17, 2021 at 12:11 PM

Cast

Al Pacino as Shylock
Lynn Collins as Portia
Jeremy Irons as Antonio
Charlie Cox as Lorenzo
720p.BLU
1.18 GB
1280*538
English 2.0
R
23.976 fps
2 hr 11 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JamesHitchcock 8 / 10

An Intelligent and Visually Attractive Look at a Complex Play

'The Merchant of Venice' is one of Shakespeare's better-known plays and is still regularly performed in the theatre. Incredibly, however, this film would seem to be the first-ever English-language version made for the cinema rather than television. There were a number of versions made in Britain or America during the early days of the cinema, but these were all silents.

The reason for this neglect of the play may be connected with sensitivities about the play's alleged anti-Semitism, a subject which has been even more sensitive since the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933. (This may explain why all previous versions were made during the silent era; in 1908 or 1922 it would have been easier to portray Shylock as a straightforward villain than it would be today). Yet in my view the film is not anti-Semitic at all. It should be remembered that during Shakespeare's lifetime there was no settled Jewish community in England; the Jews had been expelled by Edward I in the late 13th century, and were not permitted to return until the time of Cromwell, some forty years after Shakespeare's death. As far as we know, Shakespeare never travelled abroad, so it seems quite possible that he himself never knew any Jews personally or experienced the effects of anti-Semitism at first hand. The play is not simply about the Jewish question, but is, among other things, an analysis of the corrosive effects of religious prejudice. It may, in fact, be a coded examination of the mutual antipathy between Catholics and Protestants in Tudor England (something of which Shakespeare certainly would have had first-hand experience) and an appeal for greater tolerance between them.

Then as now, traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes had always depicted Jews as avaricious, but Shylock's principal sin is not avarice; if it were, he would certainly have accepted Bassanio's offer to pay him six thousand ducats, twice the amount borrowed by Antonio. Rather, Shylock's besetting sin is anger, and the root of his anger is the way in which he and his fellow-Jews are treated by the Christians of Venice. Not only are Jews in general regarded as second-class citizens, but Jewish moneylenders such as Shylock are particular targets for abuse, even though the services they provide are necessary to the Venetian economy. The play shows the corrupting effects of prejudice. Not only do views of this sort corrupt the Christians who hold them, they can also corrupt the Jews who suffer abuse. Shylock's vindictiveness is out of all proportion to the wrongs he has suffered. By spitting on him and calling him a dog, Antonio behaves like a boorish bigot, but boorishness and bigotry are not generally regarded as crimes deserving of the death penalty. Moreover, Shylock seeks to revenge himself on Antonio not merely for the undoubted wrongs that Antonio has done towards him, but also for all the wrongs, real and imaginary, that he has suffered at the hands of the Christian community, such as his daughter's marriage to Lorenzo.

It is to the credit of the film's director, Michael Radford and of its star, Al Pacino, that they understand all these issues. Pacino's Shylock has, initially, a sort of angry dignity about him that gradually gives way to vindictive rage and finally, after his humiliation in the trial scene by Portia's reasoning, to pathos. We see clearly that he has been the instrument of his own destruction, but we can still sympathise with him. In my view, none of Pacino's performances that I have seen have ever equalled those he gave in the first two 'Godfather' films (not 'Scent of a Woman', for which he won an Oscar, and certainly not 'Godfather III'), but 'The Merchant of Venice is the one that comes closest to those benchmarks. The other acting performance that stood out was Lynn Collins's luminous Portia, speaking her lines with great clarity and simplicity and bringing out the intelligence and resourcefulness that make her character more than simply a romantic heroine. I was less impressed with Jeremy Irons's Antonio, who seemed too passive. Antonio is a complex character; part loyal friend, part melancholy contemplative, part religious bigot and part enterprising capitalist. Although Irons captured the first two of those aspects, it was difficult to envisage his Antonio either spitting on someone of a different faith or hazarding his all on risky trading ventures.

Radford's interpretation of the play was attacked by the film critic of the 'Daily Telegraph' who, although he admired Pacino's performance, disliked the period setting and argued that Shakespeare needs to be placed in a contemporary setting if it is to have 'relevance' for a modern audience, citing a recent stage production which set the action in Weimar Germany. I would disagree profoundly with this approach. The theatre and the cinema are quite different media and, while there have been some striking modernist approaches to Shakespeare in the cinema (Trevor Nunn's 'Twelfth Night' comes to mind), a traditionalist approach is often the best one. (I preferred, for example, Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' to Baz Luhrmann's). The idea that we can only appreciate Shakespeare in a modern guise is sheer intellectual laziness; we are not prepared to make the effort to see our greatest writer in the context of the Elizabethan society that produced him, but rather prefer him dressed up as an ersatz twentieth-century man.

Radford's traditional approach not only enables us to appreciate that bigotry and vindictiveness are age-old, universal problems, but also makes for a visually striking film. In the play, the scenes set in Venice itself are characterised by turbulent action; those set in Portia's country house at Belmont are happier and more peaceful. In the film, the Venetian exterior scenes were shot on location against a backdrop of misty, wintry grey skies, similar to the look achieved in 'Don't Look Now'. The candlelit interiors, with faces brightly lit against a dark background, were reminiscent of the chiaroscuro effects of a Caravaggio painting; I suspect this was quite deliberate, as Caravaggio was a contemporary of Shakespeare. By contrast to dark or misty Venice, the Belmont scenes (shot in an enchanting Palladian villa on an island in a lake) were characterised by sunshine or peaceful moonlight.

This is one of the best Shakespeare adaptations of recent years; an intelligent and visually attractive look at a complex play. 8/10.

A couple of errors. We see a black swan on the water in front of Portia's house. These birds are natives of Australia and were not introduced to Europe until well after 1596, the date when the film is set. Also, the portrait of Portia in the leaden casket is painted in the style of the Florentine Botticelli, who was active about a century before that date. Lynn Collins may be reminiscent of a Botticelli beauty, but it seems unlikely that a late 16th century Venetian lady would have had herself painted in the manner of late 15th century Florence.

Reviewed by Rathko 9 / 10

A Powerful and Intelligent Adaptation

The inherent problem with any staging of 'The Merchant of Venice' has never been the pseudo-controversial anti-Semitism, but the fact that there are two story lines wildly different in both tone and content; a frothy romantic comedy and a searing tragedy. While mixing genres was all the rage in the sixteenth century (and mocked by Shakespeare in Hamlet), it rarely fails to grate with modern audiences. As a result, most directors are forced to place an emphasis on one storyline at the expense of the other, and it is no surprise that the decision falls in the favour of Shylock.

Like so many of Shakespeare's great tragic heroes, Shylock continues to fascinate after 400 years because he is such a difficult and complex character. Pitiful, proud, angry, vengeful, weak, arrogant; his behaviour defies simply analysis and continues to be argued over. He is flawed not because he is a Jew, but because he is human. Rarely do modern screenwriters imbue their creations with such richly textured contradictions, and it is to everyone's benefit that we have Shakespeare to draw on for inspiration.

Shakespearean language is wild and rambling, saturated in multiple meanings, word play and metaphor. To be understood it must be wrangled and tamed by an actor with the strength and knowledge to do so. When an actor fails, the words pour forth in a torrent of incomprehensible words, but when he succeeds, the English language springs to life with an immediacy and vibrancy that takes your breath away. Al Pacino is one such actor, and here displays an incredible level of clarity and control that, were there any justice, would sweep every award in the offering. He meets the challenge of presenting Shylock head on, and delivers an extraordinarily subtle and nuanced performance. It would be a crime if we never got the opportunity to see what he does with King Lear.

The supporting cast is noteworthy. Jeremy Irons gives an original take on the familiar Antonio, presenting an older, quieter figure that displays the unsavoury contradictions between medieval chivalry and ugly prejudice of the time. Joseph Fiennes is a revelation as he matures beyond superficial eye-candy to actually inhabit a character for once. Lynn Collins is the only disappointment. Many of Shakespeare's women are underwritten and require an actor to really work hard to bring them to life, and Collins' Gwyneth Paltrow impersonation seems a little flat and unsuited to the darker tone that Radford is aiming for.

The design team must be acknowledged for creating a unique and thoroughly believable vision of Late Renaissance Venice. The city has not looked this ominous since 'Don't Look Now'. Taking full advantage of extant locations and natural light, the film has an appearance of authenticity that is greatly enhanced by the dark and timeworn costume design. All, again, are worthy of award recognition.

The financial backers of films such as this must be commended. With a budget of $30 million, they must go into such a venture in the full and certain knowledge that they will never make a profit, and yet they invest nonetheless. We can all be grateful for it, as the result is a remarkable adaptation that is sure to be a benchmark for many years to come.

Reviewed by obsessed-2 9 / 10

Beautiful, shocking, and above all, honest

Michael Radford has done an excellent job bringing this difficult play to the screen. He has taken a play with a reputation for anti-semitism, and shown us that Shakespeare knew quite well the humanity of the Jews. Radford said after the screening, and I agree, that Shylock is his first tragic hero, the first of his characters to be undone by a driving, compulsive need for revenge. He also points out, quite rightly, that a man who was anti-semitic could not have written Shylock's speech of "If you prick me, do i not bleed?" Radford is himself of Jewish descent and he has picked out the good and bad of all characters with delicacy and honesty. no character is free from flaws; no character is evil. Radford has placed the play in the 16th century, which gives a lush background of Venetian politics and decadence on which to project Shakespeare's words.

If you get a chance to hear Radford speak about the film, I highly recommend you take it, since he gives details about life in 16th century Venice that illuminate a lot of the choices he made and give considerable extra depth to the viewing. I'm hoping that the DVD will come out with extensive commentary.

Jeremy Irons does a gorgeous portrayal of Antonio, a man who resigns himself to bearing the burden of his past misdeeds. Lynn Collins, a relative unknown, gives us an absolutely flawless, stunning, and detailed job as Portia. Not only is Ms. Collins beautiful - she also gives Portia layers of intelligence and humor prior to the trial scene i've rarely seen in any production of this play. the rest of the cast also does a terrific job, with a notable performance by Kris Marshall as Gratiano, and a beautifully subtle work by Allan Corduner as Tubal, playing the foil to Shylock. Finally, while Al Pacino pulls out his usual strong (and loud) performance, his best moments are when the camera focuses on him and he says no words, but you can see all the emotions and madnesses flowing into and out of him as he perceives his fortunes changing.

If you like period movies, I cannot recommend this movie enough.

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