Film update: The Merchant of Venice

Good thing I didn’t see this before I had to write my paper on it for class, or I would’ve written a wholly different paper. Really very nicely done, with all the scenes of Venice (and it so looked like there was at least one scene filmed in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (or at least its courtyard) in Florence, but I am probably wrong about that. The way it was directed and scripted (both by Michael Radford) made me feel real sympathy for Shylock, which a reading of the plain text didn’t offer as plainly. One other thing the text did not make so plain that Radford’s take did: he made Antonio’s love for Bassanio clearly romantic, and implied that it was very much returned. This actually turned Portia into the character I liked the least, as it made her actions in the court (or rather, her near inaction) seem to be motivated out of jealousy. The question left open, of course, was whether Bassanio loved Portia initially for more than her money.

Al Pacino was really awesome, awe-inspiring, as Shylock. I even liked his weeping sounds. Jeremy Irons was gaunt and creepy-looking as love-sick Antonio. I love Joseph Fiennes, normally, and I liked him mostly throughout, but sometimes he was a little too… good? A little too wide-eyed or something. I can’t put my finger on it. It may have been the way the film was trying to milk his beauty, the same way it did with Lynn Collins as Portia, that annoyed me.

Interesting fact: this is the first time Merchant has been a feature film with sound. Try to imagine Shakespeare without sound. Yikes.

Yay. #20 in the theater for the year, or #24 overall, I think. Full counts up here, as always.

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