Directed and Screenplay by Michael Radford
Based on the play by William Shakespeare.
For those of you who didn't read the Cliffs Notes in school, here's a brief synopsis:
Bassanio needs to raise some money in his efforts to woo Portia of Belmont. His good friend, Antonio, is short of cash because of investments in merchant ships; however, Antonio knows a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who should be able to help. Shylock is willing to lend three thousand ducats for three months with the stipulation that if Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock gets to cut off a pound of flesh. Antonio agrees since the merchant ships will have returned by then.
Bassanio goes off to win the heart of Portia, but her father has willed that she be given to the man that solves a puzzle. Whoever finds her portrait contained in one of three boxes, will make her is bride. After two suitors guess, Bassanio chooses correctly, but the marriage preparations come to a halt when a letter from Antonio arrives stating that the merchant ships were lost at sea and now he must give Shylock a pound of flesh, which he surely won't survive. Bassanio rushes back to Venice.
In court, Shylock is offered up to triple the amount of the loan to spare Antonio's life, but refuses. His rage is fuelled by revenge due to his daughter, Jessica, eloping with Lorenzo, a Christian. Portia appears disguised as a lawyer and not only does she save Antonio, but she ruins Shylock.
The film looked fantastic. The art departments do a wonderful job capturing the look of the time. The exteriors shot in Venice bring an authenticity that can't be achieved in a play. The talented ensemble was lead by Pacino's Shylock, one of his better performances of late. Jeremy Irons played Antonio although I kept finding myself wishing he had more to do.
My only problem with the film deals with some elements of the story.
Antonio knew the deal he was making with Shylock, so he gets no sympathy from me. It was obvious that he didn't think much of Shylock when he spat upon him. If the terms were disagreeable, then he certainly should have found someone else to borrow money from.