One of the immortal bard's most frequently performed works gets a first-rate cinematic treatment here, via director Michael Radford (IL POSTINO). Al Pacino is virtually unrecognisable as Shylock, bringing an old-world gravitas to the role and clearly inspiring the rest of the cast to match his intensity. They succeed, and the result is riveting, rousing entertainment. Even if one is familiar with the play in advance, this is white-knuckle suspense and swooning romance all the way through. A 16th-century Venetian sea merchant (Jeremy Irons), devoted to a young lord (Joseph Fiennes), owes a debt for 'a pound of flesh' to the anguished Jewish moneylender Shylock. Lovingly filmed in Venice, the film looks great, with settings and costumes all sporting a dusky, lived-in look that matches the subdued, naturalistic interpretation of the dialogue. Lynn Collins is excellent and ethereal as Portia, and her love scenes with Fiennes have an alchemical power that lifts them to dizzyingly mythic romantic heights. Vague homoerotic content and the grim realities of Jewish oppression are not shied away from here, which lends the film further richness and complexity. With the play's rich array of dramatic and comedic elements all perfectly in tune, MERCHANT OF VENICE earns its place as the first truly great Shakespeare film of the 21st century.
Release Date: 18 April 2005
Certificate: PG - Parental Guidance
Duration 2 hours and 18 minutes (approx)
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