Merchant of Venice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 12:00am

One of the best ways to enjoy a classic is to see it on the big screen, played out by top actors.

The Merchant of Venice, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael Bradford, gives literary buffs an opportunity to enjoy the magic of Shakespeare.

The film chronicles the fortunes of a group of Christian noblemen, including Antonio (Jeremy Irons) and Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), and a rich Jewish moneylender Shylock (Al Pacino) in 16th century Venice.

Antonio, who is in the shipping business, helps his penniless friend Bassanio court the beautiful Portia (Lynn Collins) by borrowing money from his arch-enemy, Shylock.

Unfortunately, he goes bankrupt after his ships are wrecked.

Shylock, angered by Antonio's insults and his daughter fleeing with a Christian nobleman, seeks revenge by claiming the money in the form of a pound of Antonio's flesh. Can Bassanio save his best friend?

The film's plot may be slightly dated, but the ending will surprise you. Pacino gives a sterling performance that draws comparisons with his role as the Mafia boss in the Godfather trilogy. He gives a powerful portrayal of a Jew's sadness and anger in a so-called liberal Venetian society.

Collins also shines in the film. She elegantly outwits Pacino in the final astounding courtroom scene.

Bradford's storytelling, combined with excellent cinematography, puts the film in a class of its own. The director allows his actors - rather than his camerawork - to take centre stage.

If you are interested in Shakespeare or Renaissance history, The Merchant of Venice is a movie you can't afford to miss.

The film opens on April 21