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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 September 2016
Finely acted and noncontroversial cast versions of Shakespearean plays which are also convincingly set with suitable editing of script to fit within time considerations are relatively rare when it comes to considering film offerings of the plays. This 2004 presentation of the Merchant is remarkably successful and a suitably compelling account.

Perhaps the greatest surprise is the choice of Al Pacino in the role of Shylock. In the event he delivers a performance that easily crosses the Atlantic divide and which shows Shylock as a member of a biased society which is prepared to make use of his wealth but with no return of social acceptance. Ultimately his essential crime is that of wishing to extract the terms of the original commercial agreement and not yielding on those terms. In this he is as unyielding as the society that is prepared to use him but will not accept him. Ultimately he becomes the inevitable victim and loses all but, not perhaps in this presentation, the modern audiences complete sympathy as he becomes outcast from all society without either family or wealth. In this presentation it is possible to feel pity although other less extreme options are rejected. This is very complex with many conflicts to consider and it is a measure of Al Pacino's quality that he is able to convey these various considerations with such conviction.

Jeremy Irons delivers an equally fine performance retaining a sense of proportion and essential humanity even when faced with dire consequences. All the remaining cast deliver at the same exalted level and this amounts to a very fine version indeed.

Inevitably, with such a controversial plot, there will be a range of conflicting responses representing viewers' personal starting and concluding viewpoints but it is not the purpose of this review to take sides in that sort of discussion.

However, this review is not intended to discuss the actual film as by now it will have both its supporters and detractors. Entering into those conflicts is not the purpose of the review which is aimed squarely at the many supporters of this film.

Essentially, for all of those who are keen supporters of this film and who have bought the previous DVD version of this disc, the only issue of vital importance will be whether the Blu-ray offers an improvement technically sufficient to justify the additional expense.

For this reviewer the answer is a clear affirmative. The upgrade offers a clear advance on both image and audio quality with the imaging being a marked improvement. The colours are firmer and there is an increase to the perceived depth of the imaging. The whole film simply becomes more 'real.' The film, which is so concerned with close characterisation, benefits considerably from this enhancement of reality.

The degree of improvement experienced from this BD will also inevitably depend on the replay equipment used. The following technical information is intended to be a guide to aid in assessment.

The screen used for this review is only of moderate dimensions being a 40 inch television screen. However, the television is a high performing 4K unit which delivers a compensating positive effect. The moderate screen size lacks the impact of larger screens but is less critical of film faults.

However, the contributing player is, unusually, able to separate the audio and visual HDMI signals before they leave separately to the television and pre-amp. That feature enhances both the visual and audio elements of the output. The audio, not so critical in the case, delivers an unusually wide-ranging and revealing performance. Its precision is equally revealing of film scores.

Readers with alternative equipment will have to interpret this review bearing in mind their own equipment and its comparative advantages and disadvantages.

The disc offers purchasers with suitable replay equipment a substantial improvement over the previous DVD.

In summary this BD is a transfer from good quality recent 2004 film stock and has responded well to the upgrade and well worth considering. In summary, it offers an enhanced viewing experience to a playback experience that should give great satisfaction to many supporters of this film.
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on 21 December 2017
The Merchant of Venice is a play I have known nearly all my life. Mike Radford was educated at Oxford the city of dreaming spires. I am sure this must have influenced him to film The Merchant of Venice actually in Venice also a stunningly beautiful place He has adjusted Shakespeare's script for filming and also introduced us to the history of the time concerning the treatment of the Jews and also the geography - the lovely exteriors, the canals the bridges and the wonderful painted interior of the palace where Portia resides. So the actors are given a wonderful environment in which to act out the play. And do they do it justice. It is quite charming, totally atmospheric, beautifully acted by all and - as it says on the box 'Pacino is Extraordinary' Absolutely inspired casting. He is not a villain - he carries huge burdens imposed on him by society - we watch him put on and take off the red hat Jews had to wear when they went out in public - we see Jeremy Iron's character spit at him in the face - he conveys the humiliation he suffers at the hands of the state because he is a Jew. Shakespeare wrote the script - but this production has really and truly brought it to life like no other before or since.
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on 3 August 2012
I decided I should improve my knowledge of Shakespeare and ordered this on an 'educational' basis expecting to be slightly bored. How wrong could I be - it's stunning! It is acted out against a Venetian backdrop, not as a stage play, and so comes across as a real drama with real people. Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons are both brilliant - the diction is so clear and the acting so convincing that you are carried away with the plot without even realising it is 'Shakespearean' English. The two girls are a slightly weak link especially when pretending to be legal clerks near the end, but this does at least highlight the comedy in the play which is rarely discussed.
An absolutely brilliant buy and I would definitely recommend it.
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on 8 November 2013
For those like me who prefer their Shakespeare to have a bit more impact than a National Theatre production can offer then this is for you. Very visual and full of atmosphere filmed on location in Italy it's a delightful film which is totally gripping from start to finish and just demonstrates to the full what a magnificent cast has been assembled. Apart from the breathtaking performaces from Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons - just so good together as Shylock and the merchant, Lynn Collins performance as Portia is so beautifully created in every facet. Heartiest congratulations to all concerned - you have brought Shakespeare to life so briliantly well.
David Riley, Poole, Dorset
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on 8 February 2016
I bought this for my 14/15 year old son who is studying it for his exams . Myself and my husband watched it first as we wanted to help him later with any questions etc . We really enjoyed it . The plot was clear and the storyline easy to follow . We would definately recommend it . ( some nudity but needed to convey authenticity of the era )
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on 26 February 2018
Good to be reminded of Shakespeare's political perspicacity.
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on 1 February 2016
I'm really enjoying this. The settings are simple but beautiful, and I love Al Pacino's delivery of Shakespeare's lines. The scenes also hint at the seedier aspect of city living at the time. Some moments of humour in the direction were appreciated.
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on 19 April 2017
Great acting by all - brings story to life. Watched it with my teenage son who is studying it for GCSE.
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on 25 September 2017
A brilliant production. I would thoroughly recommend this. My daughters were seeing The Merchant of Venice for the first time and they were literally on the edge of their seats....
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on 4 February 2018
Great production...a must to have.
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