Since one of the themes of this blog is Shakespeare, it's time I posted a review of the latest film version of one of his plays, "Merchant of Venice."
I prefer the plays on stage, according to the original vision of the actor who wrote them. (I hope to show someday how they should be played.) This is a personal preference-- akin to the question of whether Beethoven should be played on original instruments, and other stuffy notions.
That said, while the film "Merchant of Venice" has its flaws, and isn't for everyone, there are several reasons to see it.
1.) Al Pacino as Shylock. If you believe as many do that Pacino is the greatest living American actor, then seeing him recite the classic lines of Shakespeare is a treat. For all his sin of vengeance, Shylock is a sharp contrast to the self-involved dilettantes-at-life he contends with. His pain at the way the world treats him is palpable.
2.) The Venetian setting. At moments this is a Botticelli painting come to life. The gritty period look is enhanced by Renaissance-inspired music, which overwhelms the mood by the finish.
3.) Portia. This is the strongest (and most beautiful) of Shakespeare's women characters. Even Pacino's Shylock, with every aid given him by the film, is secondary to her. At one point of the movie I was struck by what a perfect match Portia and Bassanio seemed to make. First appearances are deceiving. By the end, she's revealed to be ten times more intelligent, crafty, and mean than her mate. One is left wondering how long she'll be satisfied with her charming fop. Portia is truly her father's daughter. We understand, through her, the unforgiveably harsh character of the man who acquired their family's wealth. (Through Portia, the dead father controls the plot.)
Does the actress fulfill the role? Well, she's beautiful enough.