The Merchant of Venice
..."Michael Radford's astute production of Shakespeare's
still-controversial play features Jeremy Irons as Antonio, who, in an effort to help Basanio (Joseph Fiennes), borrows money
from a Jewish money-lender (Al Pacino). The movie is so good, it may even get the play off high-school banned lists."
"It is ironic because film favours a natural, non-stagey
delivery and yet it is Pacino's craft, the theatrical control firing every vowel and consonant, that unleashes his free and
"A story writen in the 1590's....'Merchant of Venice'
charts the action that a Jewish merchant sets into motion because of the fierce anti-Semitism he has encountered....
"In the city's old Jewish ghetto, Pacino walks
into the most glorious of synagogues - these days barely able to gather enough people for a service - wrapped in tefillin
and prayer shawl....Shakespeare had never been to Venice when he wrote his play. He never saw the ghetto, which was
the first of its kind in Europe....
'Merchant of Venice' will appear at the Venice
Film Festival which runs from September 1-11, 2004.
Above excerpts from article written by Nicola Christie August
19, 2004 for Timeonline.
"Signior Antonio, many a time and oft in the Rialto you have
rated me about my moneys and my usances. Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of
all our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, and all for use of that which is
mine own. Well then, it now appears you need my help..."
"I accepted it because I thought that
Michael Radford had put together a script that addressed certain issues that were important to deal with. I thought
it was a character to play that could reflect a human experience and that to me was more important. Because there's
been controversy over this type of material throughout the years, and I thought that Michael Radford's script addressed that....
"The play has long sparked debate.
It contains Shylock's eloquent expression of the pain of anti-Jewish prejudice - 'If you prick us, do we not bleed?' he asks
in a famous soliloquy. It also casts him in the ugly anti-Semetic stereotype of a greedy, bloodthirsty Jew.
"Director, Michael Radford....added
that 'his picture shouldn't be seen as a tale just about tensions between Christians and Jews, but as a comment on the very
modern problem of two cultures at odds.
"He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed
at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's
his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled
by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you
poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble
you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance
be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the
"Radford's film opens with written titles
that give context on persecution of the Jews in 16th century Venice. It closes with a shot of the broken, tormented
Shylock being locked in the ghetto that restricted Jews to a tiny quarter of the city."
"Pacino's 'Merchant' Screens in Venice By Tom Rachman,
Associated Press Writer
Venice Film Festival-September 2004
"Al Pacino launched his big screen version of 'The
Merchant of Venice' today and called for more of Shakespeare's plays to be given the movie treatment. Appropriately,
the film is receiving its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival....
"Speaking in Venice, the veteran actor said he
would like to play more Shakespearean roles on screen and is keen to look at movie scripts based on the Bard's other works.
"I believe Shakespeare in film is really something
that should be tried more often, an opportunity to take some of the humanity that he writes into his characters and to express
"In the theatre you are watching it as it happens
and listening to the words. But in a movie you have the opportunity to cut away, to go in for close-ups, to bring in
a different dynamic to a scene....
"I would like to do yet another Shakespeare if
I could. I would prefer to do it as a play first....
"Pacino said he had worked hard to bring a sympathetic
edge to one of Shakespeare's most unlovable characters.
"It would be hard to play a character that you
don't like, for me anyway. One of the things all actors do is find something in a character to relate to....
"We tried to figure out the back life of Shylock
and what led him to the state he was in.
"Shylock was alone, his wife had died recently,
he was a victim of an abusive life. He had a daughter whom he loved and her flight affected him greatly...."
"Pacino Takes Shakespeare to Venice Film Festival"
By Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor, PA News in Venice, Published September 4, 2004.
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