Merchant of Venice: Film Analysis





Merchant of Venice: Film Analysis


The Merchant of Venice film is a film based on Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, which was released in 2004. The film is written by William Shakespeare, in his play and Michael Radford for the screenplay. Michael Radford is the director of the film as well. The play as written by Shakespeare had at least four main characters, Antonio, Bassanio, Shylock, and Portia. In the film, Antonio is played by Jeremy Irons, Bassanio by Joseph Fiennes, Shylock by Al Pacino, and Portia by Lynn Collins. The film locations are in Esch-Sur-Alzette, Luxembourg and Venice and Veneto, Italy.


Antonio, a merchant, is approached by Bassanio, a young man who wants to woo Portia. He approaches him for a loan, but Antonio’s ships are at sea and therefore, he is unable to lend him the money. He advises him to borrow from Shylock, a Jew, and to list him as his guarantor. Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats, with the condition that, failure to return the money; he will get a pound of flesh from Antonio. Bassanio sets out for Belmont to woo Portia, accompanied by his friend Gratiano. Bassanio chooses the right casket and wins Portia. Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with a Christian, Lorenzo, and this infuriates Shylock. Bassanio receives news that Antonio’s ships are wrecked, and Shylock demands his pound of flesh (Tosi & Bassi 15). The film brings out Shakespeare’s works and the setting is just right. The film is very entertaining and has deep insights on some of the themes that were highlighted in the play. At the time, in Venice, as shown in the film, there was a great rift between the Jews and the Christians. This movie is spectacular especially because it brings out the theme of hatred and vengeance quite clearly.


The film is enlightening on how revenge and hatred are retrogressive to an individual. Throughout the movie, Shylock appears as a very bitter man, who harbors much hatred for the Christians. Additionally, his Daughter, Jessica, elopes with Lorenzo, a Christian (Shakespeare 44). This abhorrence of Christians forms his character in the film especially as seen in the court scene. In his first appearance in the movie, he conspires to harm Antonio when he decides to ask for a pound of flesh from him if payment is defaulted. Launcelot Gobbo, played by Mackenzie Crook, asks Shylock what good the pound of flesh will do him. He replies that he has been taught villainy, and it is what he will execute, but harder (Appignanesi, Yong, & Shakespeare 37). He capitalizes on Antonio’s misfortune as his ships are wrecked at sea. In the film, Shylock can bring out the character a vengeful and bitter Jew. In the courthouse scene, Shylock is having a triumphant moment as he feels that finally he shall take his revenge on Antonio. However, things work against him and is instructed to extract the pound of flesh without making Antonio bleed. In the film, the tension in the scene cuts through the air. Shylock ends up losing his property to the state, as it is seized. He is also ordered to convert to Christianity. In this scene, the emotions shown by Shylock after the verdict are very intense. One cannot help but pity him for losing his daughter and wealth to the Christians. His drive for vengeance reduces him to nothing and ends up being a tragic hero and a victim.

Film Structure

Filmmaking requires special features and editing for production to be great. In the filming of the Merchant of Venice, the lighting appears to be natural. This makes the viewer connect with the world in the film, as it appears real. Throughout the film, the shots taken are few as they concentrate on the characters, and the cuts taken between the shots are not as rapid. These slow cuts are instrumental in intensifying moments and bringing out themes. For instance, when Shylock is explaining to Launcelot Gobbo on his reason for asking for a pound of flesh, the shots taken are few and focus on him. The camera positions and the shots throughout the film vary with different scenes. For instance, in the court scene, when Shylock is demanding for his pound of flesh, the camera is at eye level. The focus on his face shows the intensity and seriousness of his intent, therefore, brings out the hatred and vengeance theme more. At the end of the film, when Shylock is losing the case, and the verdict is being made, the soundtrack played is slow and melancholic. The soundtrack induces a feeling of sadness. It serves as a lesson to Shylock that vengeance and hatred are of no good.


The film genre is romance and drama, weaved in classical literature. A film of such nature would be suitable for classical literature enthusiasts and students taking literature as a discipline. The film is set in medieval times, and I would recommend for the same film to be done in the contemporary times, to observe how different the production would turn out. This film is one of the most memorable classical literature films done, as it captures the themes in the original play with precision, and it is quite entertaining.



Works Cited

Appignanesi, Richard, Faye Yong, and William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Amulet Books, 2011. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Irvine: Saddleback Educational Pub., 2010. Print.

Tosi, Laura, and Shaul Bassi. Visions of Venice in Shakespeare. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011. Print.


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