In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.
Venice, 1596. Melancholy Antonio loves the youthful Bassanio, so when Bassanio asks for 3000 ducats, Antonio says yes before knowing it's to sue for the hand of Portia. His capital tied up in merchant ships at sea, Antonio must go to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender he reviles. Shylock wraps his grudge in kindness, offering a three-month loan at no interest, but if not repaid, Antonio will owe a pound of flesh. The Jew's daughter elopes with a Christian, whetting Shylock's hatred. While Bassanio's away wooing Portia, Antonio's ships founder, and Shylock demands his pound of flesh. With court assembled and a judgment due, Portia swings into action to save Bassanio's friend. Written by
I just saw this at the Toronto International Film Festival in the beautiful Elgin Theatre. I was blown away by the beautiful cinematography, the brilliant adaptation of a very tricky play and last but not least, the bravura performance of Al Pacino, who was born to play this role, which was perfectly balanced by an equally strong performance from Jeremy Irons.
The film deftly explores the themes of love vs loyalty, law vs justice, and passion vs reason. Some might protest that the content is inherently anti-semitic, however they should consider the historical context of the story, and the delicate and nuanced way in which it is told in this adaptation.
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