Monday, August 8, 2011

The Merchant of Venice

In 1596 Venice, Jews are treated with intolerance and resigned to ghettos where they are locked in at night and forced to wear red hats if they leave during the day. This intolerance is magnified through the story of Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), a romantic spendthrift who needs to raise money to he can present himself as a suitable suitor to the beautiful and playful Portia (Lynn Collins). In order to dear this he seeks the help of his dear friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons) a successful man who has all his funds tied up in his shipping business. In order to procure the money, they go to the ghetto and seek the services of Shylock (Al Pacino), a money lender whom Antonio has treated with harsh abuse to do his high interest rates. Now, Shylock demands that instead of interest, if Antonio defaults on the loan, he must pay him with a pound of his own flesh, a debt he insists on collecting. "The Merchant of Venice" is William Shakespeare's most controversial and least filmed plays. Here the film feels stagy and there is not much to Michael Radford's directial approach. However, Shakespeare's story is is so rich and cunning and his dialogue is so beautiful and eloquent that it almost comes off as music. The acting by Pacino and especially Irons is spectacular, and the emotions they convey are both deep and resonating. There is a reason that the works of William Shakespeare are so often adapted for the screen. His lyrical style cannot be found anywhere else and watching "The Merchant of Venice" I was taken aback by the beautiful wordings to go along with the wonderful performances.