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Merchant of Venice

*This entry is part of a mini-feature, High School Nostalgia: books-turned-movies that were discussed during my high school years.
Cast: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes
Director: Michael Radford

Merchant of Venice was the first Shakespearean work that I had my hands on. It's light, and it served its comedic purpose, but had dramatic flair. To this day, Sherlock's monologue is the only speech that I can still recall. While the play is light to read and easy to take in, the same can't be said regarding the movie. Interpreted in the traditional sense, Merchant of Venice succeeds in transporting ancient Venice on screen, the flaw might have been the interpretation of the lines in itself.

Merchant of Venice follows Bassanio, this lovelorn lad who wants to win Portia's hand. However, he has no financial means to do so, thus asking Antonio for a loan. Antonio's money, on the other hand, was tied to his voyages, thus prompting Bassanio to ask Shylock for the loan. Shylock agreed, mainly because of the rift he had against Antonio, agreeing to the loan for the exchange of a pound of flesh when the loan is not repaid in three months. Seeing as this is a comedy, it does end up in a happy note.

I am not even going to try sugar coating this movie. This is a better read than to be seen onscreen. It may even be a better theatrical play than to see this onscreen. It felt like the actors were drowning in the words they were saying...or spurting out, for that matter. It felt that the performances of some felt poor, that there was no zest in what they were doing. They did not even try to make the character their own; it was a very rigid performance, basing everything on fancy movement and the speech. 

If there could be someone that was memorable in this, it would be Al Pacino's Shylock. He was the one that looked comfortable in the role and the only one that showed any kind of emotion when necessary. The performances of the other stars were weak. This definitely added to the fact that the movie felt long, that I was watching a three hour movie with a slow start, culminating to a even uneventful climax. Jeremy Irons, who played Antonio, looked the part, but I expected him to have more life, rather than looking dull. Joseph Fiennes was unmemorable as Bassanio, who didn't struck me as a person in love, but a pompous man who squandered away all his money.  I felt that in the play Portia was a smart woman, but the portrayal by Lynn Collins was forgettable. I felt that Portia wasn't deemed to be like the Portia Shakespeare imagined her to be. Even Nerissa made for a far more entertaining character than she was.

For a play that was classified to be a comedy, the dramatic theme stood out, particularly during the climax. However, as dramatic as the scene should have been, it didn't translate well in the film. Maybe it's because of the lack of vigor the characters gave that made the scene seem so anti climactic. All in all, the movie proved to be a failed interpretation in my account and seems to be suited better on a theater. 


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