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The Merchant of Venice (2004)

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.

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some nudity | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

18 February 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£147,709 (UK) (3 December 2004)

Gross:

$3,752,725 (USA) (20 May 2005)
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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Michael Radford was required to cut the kiss between Antonio and Bassanio for the "Edited for Television" version of this film. See more »

Goofs

Approximately 0:02:50 into the film, camera equipment and a man with a black baseball cap w/white logo are seen on the left hand side of the frame. It's a very quick cutaway scene after a couple shots of the white balcony. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Title Card: Intolerance of the Jews was a fact of 16th Century life even in Venice, the most powerful and liberal city state in Europe.
Title Card: By law the Jews were forced to live in the old walled foundry or 'Geto' area of the city. After sundown the gate was locked and guarded by Christians
Title Card: In the daytime any man leaving the ghetto had to wear a red hat to mark him as a Jew.
Man in Crowd: Usurer! Usurer!
Title Card: The Jews were forbidden to own property. So they practised usury, the lending of money at interest. This was ...
[...]
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Connections

Version of The Merchant of Venice (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Her Gentle Spirit
Performed by David Juritz Violin, Leader
Violin(s): Gabrielle Lester, Ian Humphries, Jonathan Evans-Jones, Julian Leaper, Karin Leishman, Maya Megub (Maya Magub), Paul Willey
Cello: Josephine Knight, Nick Cooper, Richard Tunnicliffe, Sophie Harris
Published By Shylock Ltd. / EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
© 2004 Decca Music Group Limited
(p) Jocelyn Pook Ltd. /2004 Decca Music Group Limited
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User Reviews

 
When a director doesn't understand the script.
4 July 2005 | by (Salem, Oregon) – See all my reviews

Watching this movie and then listening to the commentary, it's clear that Michael Radford doesn't understand this play. The first clue that he fails to fully grasp the work is that he takes pains to set the film in seventeenth-century Venice. Which sounds truly odd, yes, that misunderstanding the film would mean trying to make it as accurate to its location as possible. But anyone who's studied Shakespeare knows that, while he set most of his plays in exotic locals, the culture and values are always contemporary England. This doesn't hurt the film, but it displays a lack of necessary knowledge.

Where Radford kills the film is in making it so dead serious. He manages to suck every joke out of the script, leaving the whole production flat. Every ounce of passion is beaten out of the characters. Even Shylock's 'Do we not bleed' speech is a mild, awkward ranting from a choleric who seems to only be saying and doing what he does because he's supposed to. The lovers are solemn and far too restrained (Joseph Fiennes delivers some of the most romantic lines in the cinema this year in a barely audible whisper), Gratiano (who has to promise to behave at one point) is more sober and collected than Bassiano (who makes him promise to behave), Jessica is reluctant to leave her father and spends her life with Lorenzo pouting.

In the commentary for the bland and watered-down court scene, the director voices his shock that an audience laughed at Portia's 'A pound of flesh, no more, no less' sentence; ultimately concluding that it had to tension release laughter. 'The Merchant of Venice' is a comedy and Radford scoffs at the idea that the most absurd and hysterical portions of the story are anything but the most daringly provocative drama.

The film has no intelligible focus, yet cuts out some of the most entertaining scenes. The characters are forced into high drama veils, so they come out sounding like Ibsen characters reading Victorian poetry. And the comedic ending, where all of the good guys go to bed happy, is drowned in a dignified despair that feels like they're finding stiff- upper-lip peace with impending death, rather than reconciling with lovers. Even Lancelot and Antonio exit the film holding their hats like aristocratic mourners.

The film is poorly done because the creative powers that be don't understand the script. It is stern where it should hysterical. It is reserved where it should be passionate. It is Michael Radford where it should be William Shakespeare.


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