Antonio (Jeremy Irons), silently in love with his friend Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) acts asguarantor for a loan Bassanio needs in order to woo the beautiful Portia (Lynn Collins). Theyborrow the sum from Shylock (Al Pacino) who demands, should Antonio default, a pound offlesh (literally). Bassanio’s adventures in love are successful, but Antonio’s ships founder, andShylock, distressed over his daughter’s elopement and incessant anti-Semitism he hasexperienced, demands his te…rible price.
Productions of this play are always faced with the dilemma: what to do about the virulentanti-Semitism in the script. Michael Radford’s film takes the smart tack of treating anti-Semitismas being at the heart of the play’s concerns, and the result is as compelling as it is thoughtprovoking. The performances are very strong, the delivery natural, and special plaudits should goto Irons, Pacino and Collins, all of whose eyes tell entire tales themselves.
Most crucially, the dialogue in the film is perfectly clear, with no trace of distortion. Theenvironmental effects are restrained but effective (especially when thunder and rain areinvolved), but at no time do effects or music overwhelm the dialogue. A nicely balancedtrack.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is blessed by very rich colours, excellentcontrasts and fine blacks. There is no grain or visible edge enhancement, and the image is verysharp. A beautiful film is thus granted a beautiful transfer.
Michael Radford is interesting and thoughtful on the commentary, but Lynn Collinsinterrupts his train of thought to often to gush in ways that are not necessarily very informative.The making-of featurette is the usual thing, and there are trailers for the feature and five otherfilms. The DVD-ROM feature is a web link to a teacher’s guide (nice touch). The menu is scoredon a number of its screens.
Smart and moving, this is also a suspenseful adaptation of what must rank as one of the veryfirst courtroom thrillers.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Making-of Featurette
- Teacher’s Guide Web Link