Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice

4.1 7
Director: Michael Radford

Cast: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes

     
 

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 leastSee more details below

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Of all Shakespeare’s classic plays, The Merchant of Venice has been among the least frequently tackled by filmmakers, who perhaps are uncomfortable with its apparent anti-Semitism and harshness of tone. This adaptation, written and directed by Michael Radford (Il Postino), confronts the play’s less savory aspects head on. As played by Al Pacino, the moneylender Shylock revels in the bargain he has made with the openly contemptuous merchant Antonio: If the loan is not paid back on time, he will extract a pound of flesh from the borrower. Shakespeare succumbed to the temptation to stereotype Shylock, but he also allowed the character to voice his pain and frustration over the way Christians treat their Jewish neighbors. “Hath not a Jew eyes?” begins one of the playwright’s most famous speeches -- and one of the most plaintive pleas for acceptance uttered by a fictional character on behalf of an entire people. Pacino’s trademark intensity serves him well in this part, and Jeremy Irons infuses his Antonio with the vaguely sinister melancholy he has brought to so many roles. The story’s comedic aspect -- centering on the romance of Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) and Portia (Lynn Collins) -- is handled neatly but pales beside the Shylock-Antonio conflict: the young lovers are entirely unaware that their relationship is bringing pain to others. Filmed in Venice, this Merchant has been beautifully mounted with regard to sets and costumes. It’s one of the most accessible Shakespeare adaptations we’ve seen in many years, and it makes a worthy introduction to one of the Bard’s greatest works.
All Movie Guide - Skyler Miller
One gets the sense that Shakespeare's choice to make Shylock a Jew in The Merchant of Venice was a quick (and undeniably wrong) shorthand to represent villainy for Elizabethan audiences. But Shakespeare also gives him one of the most famous defenses of human equality in the English language ("If you prick us do we not bleed..."), and in Michael Radford's adaptation, this humanity is teased out even further, making Shylock the tragic center of what is ostensibly a comedy. And it's this tension between comedy and tragedy that makes The Merchant of Venice a fascinating, if not entirely successful, reading of a difficult play. The film opens with a text prologue explaining the Jews' place in 16th century Venice -- how they were locked inside a ghetto during the night, and forced to wear red caps when they interacted with Christians. From there, Radford's script and Al Pacino's fierce performance collude to make Shylock the centerpiece of the film, turning the anti-Semitism of the play on its head; rather than being implicit, we face it head-on. Shylock is an anti-Semitic distortion, yes, but from Radford's perspective, he also serves as a reflection and condemnation of the bigotry around him. Shylock is certainly the most human of all the characters in this adaptation. We don't condone his actions, but in the context Radford sets up, he is understandably vindictive as a man who has lacked power and suddenly receives it. He wants justice -- any form of justice. So when he receives his comeuppance, what may have originally been viewed as a villain getting what he deserved comes across as cruel and vindictive. Radford's strategy of emphasizing Shylock ultimately unbalances the play, turning the ostensible protagonists into lightweights and making their fates feel inconsequential. But if much of what happens around Shylock seems frivolous, perhaps that's the point.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/10/2005
UPC:
0043396109100
Original Release:
2004
Rating:
R
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
1
Time:
2:11:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary with Michael Radford & Lynn Collins; Behind-the-scenes making-of featurette; Web link to Teacher's Guide (for classroom only)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Al Pacino Shylock
Jeremy Irons Antonio
Joseph Fiennes Bassanio
Lynn Collins Portia
Zuleikha Robinson Jessica
Kris Marshall Gratiano
Charlie Cox Lorenzo
Heather Goldenhersh Nerissa
Mackenzie Crook Actor
John Sessions Actor
Gregor Fisher Actor
Ron Cook Actor
Alan Corduner Tubal
Anton Rodgers Actor
David Harewood Actor
Antonio Gil-Martinez Actor

Technical Credits
Michael Radford Director,Screenwriter
Cary Brokaw Producer
Anni Buchanan Makeup
Michael Cowan Producer
Michael Lionella Cowan Producer
Paul Davies Sound/Sound Designer
Jimmy De Brabant Co-producer
Benoit Delhomme Cinematographer
John Dodds Asst. Director
Edwige Fenech Co-producer
Nigel Goldsack Co-producer
Gary Hamilton Executive Producer
Michael Hammer Executive Producer
Sharon Howard-Field Casting
Robert Jones Executive Producer
Alex Marshall Executive Producer
Luciano Martino Co-producer
Barry Navidi Producer
Peter James Executive Producer
Jason Piette Producer
Jocelyn Pook Score Composer
Chris Rose Asst. Director
Bruno Rubeo Production Designer
Sammy Sheldon Costumes/Costume Designer
Brian Simmons Sound/Sound Designer
James Simpson Executive Producer
Clive Waldron Associate Producer
Manfred Wilde Executive Producer
Lucia Zucchetti Editor

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Start [4:56]
2. Antonio & Bassanio [5:16]
3. Portia [4:24]
4. Shylock [3:47]
5. The Bond [6:55]
6. An Infection to Serve [4:48]
7. Before the Feast [5:37]
8. The Caskets [3:32]
9. A Passion So Confused [6:07]
10. The Fool's Head [4:31]
11. ."..Shall We Not Revenge?" [4:13]
12. Loss Upon Loss [4:15]
13. An Ambassador of Love [7:33]
14. Two Proposals [6:26]
15. A Gaping Wound [5:11]
16. A Cur Rages [2:15]
17. A Question of Law [3:20]
18. The Trial [4:33]
19. Dearly Bought [3:19]
20. Mercy [4:42]
21. Judgment [3:05]
22. A Pound of Flesh [3:34]
23. No Drop of Blood [2:24]
24. "I Am Contented." [4:32]
25. Tokens [3:40]
26. Rings... [5:51]
27. ...And Revelations [4:08]
28. Epilogue [8:09]

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