46 of 61 people found the following review helpful
How not to bring Shakespeare to the cinema,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Merchant of Venice [DVD]  (DVD)
A deeply disappointing effort. Shakespeare's humane and magnificent drama is reduced to a dull and sordid costume show. Its wit is extinguished and its poetry muffled. The actors do not speak the lines - they simply mumble the words. Every character is impoverished: Portia is robbed of her intelligence; Bassanio of his chivalry; and Shylock of his miserliness and malice. Pacino is watchable as Shylock, but the only authentic Shakespearian performance is by David Harewood as the Prince of Morocco.
And the film simply misses the point of Shylock's tragedy. Of course we disapprove of the anti-semitism of the film's Venetians - but they are just a bunch of lager-louts. The anti-semitism of Shakespeare's refined and civilised courtiers, who do not appear in this film, is far more alarming. Of course we feel compassion for Pacino's Shylock - who would not feel compassion for a respectable man labouring under oppression? But our compassion is stretched further and our humanity more deeply engaged when we find ourselves feeling compassion for Shakespeare's malicious miser, who has been airbrushed from this production.
What is the point of trying to bring Shakespeare to a wider audience if you don't trust him to hold the audience's attention by the power of his poetry, if you reduce his complex characters to two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, and you don't trust the audience to listen to what he has to say?