BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

29 October 2014
Stoke & StaffordshireStoke & Staffordshire

BBC Homepage
England
»BBC Local
Stoke & Staffs
Things to do
People & Places
Nature
History
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near stoke

Birmingham
Black Country
Derby
Liverpool
Shropshire

Related BBC Sites

England
 

Contact Us

Film Reviews


William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice
William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice
15William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice (2004)

updated 03 December 2004
reviewer's rating
3 out of 5
Reviewed by Neil Smith


Director
Michael Radford
Writer
Michael Radford
Stars
Al Pacino
Jeremy Irons
Joseph Fiennes
Lynn Collins
Kris Marshall
Mackenzie Crook
Length
131 minutes
Distributor
Optimum Releasing
Cinema
03 December 2004
Country
USA/UK/Italy
Genre
Drama
Web Links
Official site



At first glance, William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice would seem an unlikely candidate for a big-screen treatment. An unwieldy blend of romantic comedy and tragic melodrama, this 'problem play' has to clear an additional hurdle in our enlightened times thanks to its characterisation of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who seeks a literal pound of flesh from his Christian nemesis. Michael Radford's gloomy film is a long and slightly draining haul, but the intensity of Al Pacino's central performance justifies the effort required.

In Shakespeare's time, Shylock was played as a crude, anti-Semitic caricature. Radford's film, however, offers a far more contemporary interpretation, with the Jew's scheme against Jeremy Irons' Antonio motivated by an outsider's sense of injustice and persecution. Irons, too, has a psychological burden to carry as his merchant's decision to indebt himself to Shylock is a result of his unspoken homosexual lust for Joseph Fiennes' fortune-hunting playboy Bassanio.

With the latter off courting the fair Portia (played by newcomer Lynn Collins, whose uncanny resemblance to Gwyneth Paltrow, Fiennes' Shakespeare In Love co-star, can hardly be a coincidence), Antonio must face the music as Shylock demands his bloody forfeit in court. The trial scene is the centrepiece of any stage production and is no less effective here, with Al's implacable avenger chillingly unmoved by the disguised Portia's eloquent protestations.

"OPPRESSIVELY SOMBRE AND TORTUOUS"

Radford's decision to keep faith with the play's 16th-century setting pays off in authentic Venetian locations and a painterly use of light and shadow. But the oppressively sombre mood and torturous pace make this harder work than it should be, with Pacino's melancholy presence dominating proceedings long after his premature exit. The movie is worth catching on the strength of his work alone. Despite this, you can't help thinking it will confirm more prejudices about filmed Shakespeare than it confounds.

Find out more about "William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice" at
Movie Review Query Engine
The Internet Movie Database


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites



SEE ALSO
home
HOME
email
EMAIL
print
PRINT
Go to the top of the page
TOP
SITE CONTENTS
SEE ALSO

[an error occurred while processing this directive]


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy