The Merchant of Venice
- TV Movie
- 1h 26min
A rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will... Read allA rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will: only the man that picks the correct casket out of three (silver, gold, and lead) can mar... Read allA rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will: only the man that picks the correct casket out of three (silver, gold, and lead) can marry her. Bassanio, unfortunately, is strapped for cash with which to go wooing, and Antonio... Read all
It has been a lot better represented though in other productions than this one from 1996, a prime example being the Globe production with Jonathan Pryce. It is far from bad, with enough things that make it watchable. It also deserves credit for helping my friends study 'The Merchant of Venice' in their English literature courses, with this production being the one they watched. Did find with studying Shakespeare plays that the films/productions chosen to watch to help with the studying were not the best, remember studying 'Antony and Cleopatra' and being shown the Timothy Dalton and Lynn Redgrave version. For those already familiar with this play, it's better finding another version.
1996's 'The Merchant of Venice' does have good things certainly. The locations, partially shot in Venice itself, look absolutely beautiful and are shot evocatively and with a lot of love. The costumes are well designed and have colour and atmosphere. The music was also a winner, very appealing to listen to in orchestration and dynamic range and didn't detract from the atmosphere at all. Loved the Elizabethan dance-like music played over the closing credits.
Despite having big reservations about how Shylock is written and treated here, Bob Peck still brought authority and integrity to him. Haydn Gwynne also has some poignant dignity as Portia. Shakespeare's dialogue is amazing, especially the crucial dramatic parts, and always shines even in performances that don't do their respective plays justice.
However, to me this version did lack passion and some of the pace tends to be pedestrian. The drama doesn't feel opened up enough and it was like it was deliberately made to help school students studying the basic gist of the drama and characters but does so with not enough depth or feeling. The acting could have been a lot more varied and expressive, with the more comedic moments being on the subdued side.
Some cuts to the text and such can be seen, which is not a bad thing as such but it can be if it affects the pacing or cohesion. It did feel like there was a little jumping around. Benjamin Whitrow for my tastes was miscast as Antonio, too old (he and Bassanio looking more like father and son than friends), too cruel and not noble enough, didn't find him very engaged either. Had a real issue with the way Shylock is treated and written, while having no problem with Peck's acting. It is not easy interpreting Shylock, the most problematic character of 'The Merchant of Venice' and the most controversial aspect of it. He works best as an ambiguous character, not too sympathetic or too much of a villain. Here his treatment and writing go too far the latter way to near-irredeemable degrees and the production is very rough on him. So much so that he comes over as an anti-semitic stereotype, when other versions available succeeded in avoiding and addressing this.
Overall, watchable but disappointing. 5/10.
- Jul 2, 2021