William Shakespeare. This name doesn’t exactly invoke a reaction of excitement and enthusiasm from most college students. So when a new Shakespeare film is playing in theaters, most college students don’t even know it exists. I suppose advertising this movie on MTV and BET just would not make any sense.
For those of you who aren’t passionate about Shakespeare, I would exercise caution in your decision to see The Merchant of Venice. If you’re looking for a regular Hollywood movie or a Romeo and Juliet Baz Luhrmann-esque Shakespeare spin-off, you might want to reconsider. You probably won’t have the attention span to sit through the entire movie without daydreaming about your next drunken night or thinking of The Lion King. Hey, I’m not completely crazy – Antonio is played by Jeremy Irons, the voice of Scar from The Lion King.
But for all of you Elizabethan theater nuts, it is a must-see. The actors truly mastered the art of Shakespeare. Al Pacino led this troupe of actors with his performance of Shylock. He achieved the depth of Shylock by making the audience feel pity for the persecuted Jew, yet earned hatred for his mercilessness in demanding one pound of Antonio’s flesh. Though Antonio is not in much of the movie, Irons gave one of his best supporting performances.
Shakespearean scholars continue to debate whether or not Bassanio, played by Joseph Fiennes, and Antonio had a romantic relationship. Most scholars agree that Antonio had a deep affection for Bassanio. Irons captured this affection for Bassanio with one look in the beginning of the movie.
Besides the excellent acting, the screenplay followed the play practically word for word. This would satisfy any Shakespeare fan, but made the movie stretch for a slow two hours and twenty minutes. For the attention span of the modern audience, particularly college students who are looking for sex, violence and action in movies, this film could be almost unbearable. You may want to think twice about bringing your date along too, unless you want to cuddle in each others arms and fall asleep.
If you do have interest in seeing how experienced actors make Shakespeare enjoyable, then The Merchant of Venice is the right flick for you. But if you don’t have a particular interest, I would skip this Shakespearean event.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at Morgan.firstname.lastname@example.org.