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Merchant of Venice

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  • Merchant of Venice

    As a Christmas treat, I went along to the Odeon in Oxford to watch this movie with Al Pacino as Shylock and Jeremy Irons as Antonio. I was highly looking forward to it, especially as the filming took place in Venice itself.

    It was enjoyable enough, though it kind of washed over me. Sure Pacino is the best thing in the movie, that is obvious. However, I have seen better Shylocks hawking the London stage. I did appreciate his clarity of speech though, which made the important parts more accessible to a modern movie audience.

    As the production cut off nearly an hour of a normal theatre production length it lacked the depth of text and feeling needed to really connect with the other characters in the play. You certainly don't empathise with them as you should, nor are the parts particularly well performed. There was a lot of UK comedy stars included, e.g. John Sessions, Mackenzie Crook - Gareth from "The Office", Gregor Fisher - "Rab C. Nesbit", Kris Marshell - "My Family". So, this is heavily geared towards a UK audience. With the exception of John Sessions, none of the others really feel right for the roles they play.

    As with all modern productions of the play, there is always a problem with presenting Shakespeare's anti-semitic stance towards Shylock and the usuary code. There is a vain attempt to play down this element and demonise Shylock less. This is probably a mistake, as it takes away some of the power of the character and plot. Shakespeare saw it as one of his comedies, modern sentimentalities see some of the elements as distasteful and shocking, but should we try and mollify these sentimentalities or portray the play as it was meant?

    All in all, probably a 3/5 rating for this one.
    ‘In real life people do not spend every minute shooting each other, hanging themselves or making declarations of love. They don’t spend every minute saying clever things. Rather they eat, drink, flirt, talk nonsense."