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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

4.1 out of 5 stars 246 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Michael Radford, the Academy Award(r)-nominated director of Il Postino, comes the critically-acclaimed screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's controversial classic, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Antonio (Jeremy Irons), a successful but cash-poor merchant, approaches Shylock (Al Pacino), a wealthymoneylender, for a loan to help his young friend Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love) woothe fair Portia (Lynn Collins, 13 Going on 30). Despite being longtime enemies, Shylock grants therequest, but demands one pound of Antonio's flesh if the debt is not repaid on time. When Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock seeks what is legally owed to him but soon learns that those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.

Special Features

  • Mastered in high definition
  • Featurette: Behind-the-scenes making-of
  • Web link to teacher's guide

Product Details

  • Actors: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynn Collins, Zuleikha Robinson
  • Directors: Michael Radford
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 10, 2005
  • Run Time: 131 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007WRT4Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,652 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on February 2, 2005
I approached this movie with some trepidation, mainly owing to the presence of Al Pacino as Shylock. The only Shakespeare I had seen him attempt was his lead in Richard III. I was less than impressed by his acting in that one. I'm also always a little queasy about seeing screen attempts at encapsulating a three hour Shakespeare play in a two hour movie.

While I wasn't exactly delighted at the outcome of this attempt, there is a lot to recommend, thanks to some sure handed British directing and acting. And Pacino underplays a role for a change (for the most part) and he handled his line readings with aplomb.

The problem with the script (and it is, along with MEASURE FOR MEASURE and THE WINTERS TALE, one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays to begin with, in that it is morally ambiguous) is the obvious anti-semitism surrounding the moneylender Shylock. The film actually opens with a kind of disclaimer reminding the audience that Renaissance attitudes towards Jews were not exactly politically correct. Shakespeare's script certainly bears this out, which is one reason it still attracts negative criticism on many college campuses.

The director (Michael Radford, who also wrote the adaptation) and cast handle this delicate issue rather adroitly. Pacino manages to elicit more sympathy than derision for Shylock. The only quibble I have with interpretation occurs in the trial scene, in which Shylock's insistence on Antonio's (Jeremy Irons) repayment of his debt (the famous pound of flesh) is rendered much more menacingly and realistically than I've ever seen it portrayed. It really does appear to be imminently possible that Shylock is going to happily flay Antonio alive before Portia or any other contravening authority, such as the the the Duke (acting as judge) can stop him.
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Shakespeare's plays are full of the stuff of Humanity and Life: Love, Hate, Revenge, Death, Jealousy, etc. But very few of his plays have all of these. "The Merchant of Venice" (Il Mercante di Venezia) is one. And Michael Radford's film of "TMOV" is bubbling over, roiling and rocking with the Stuff of Life: though considered one of Shakespeare's comedies, this version is a very somber and dark reading of the play: a very, very dark comedy.
Anyone filming or staging a Shakespeare play is faced with a dilemma: What do I do about the Language? Radford has directed his actors to speak in a natural and conversational manner yet they do not forget to savor the beauty or ignore the eloquence of the Shakespearean verse.
Portia's "The Quality of Mercy" and Shylock's "Pound of Flesh" soliloquies and Lynn Collins' and Pacino's readings of them are breathtaking in their eloquence, delicate phrasing and common sense rationality: they continue to have real power...the power to move us.
Venice in the 1600's is ripe for drama what with the Jewish population locked up at night and forced to wear red caps when amongst the general population, so as to be recognized and of course, ridiculed. But Jews were allowed to lend money and though not allowed to, charged interest on this money. And out of this ugly, discriminatory milieu comes Shylock (Al Pacino), who lends 3,000 ducats to Antonio (Jeremy Irons) so that Antonio can lend them to Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), in essence so that Bassanio can marry the wealthy Portia (Lynn Collins).
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After the high school English Lit experience, I've never been a Shakespeare fan, so I've rarely seen any of those of his works that've been put on film. Mired in the bliss of almost total ignorance, I'll yet foolishly suggest that this Big Screen THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is perhaps the most sumptuous cinematic adaptation of any of the Bard's plays to date.

If you're completely without Cultcha and you don't know the plot, it's late 16th century Venice and the import-export merchant Antonio (Jeremy Irons) borrows 3,000 gold ducats from the Jewish moneylender Shylock (Al Pacino). The money goes to Antonio's chum Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), who'll use it to impress and win the hand of the Babe of his dreams, the orphaned heiress Portia (Lynn Collins). But, Antonio suffers ruinous business setbacks and can't repay. So Shylock, remembering the public contempt shown to him by Antonio in the past and recently humiliated by the desertion of his only daughter to a Christian lover, insists that Antonio pay the penalty stipulated in the terms of the loan agreement, i.e. a pound of his own flesh, literally. And Shylock is prepared to go to the Duke's court to argue the legality of his case under existing Venetian statutes. Things look bleak and potentially painful for Antonio.

Filmed in Luxembourg and the decaying glory of Venice, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is an extraordinarily lavish feast for the eyes. At times, as I found myself losing the thread of Shakespeare's flowery dialog, I found immense satisfaction in the production's glorious costuming and sets.

Pacino, who, in the past decade, has played cops, the Devil, a pro football coach, and a blind lecher, steals the show with an Oscar-worthy performance.
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