Posts Tagged ‘jeremy irons’

This 2004 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play (originally written as a comedy, although it feels far more like a drama) stars Al Pacino as Shylock (and he is easily the best thing in this film), Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio and Lynne Collins as Portia.

The story, in essence, centres on a deal made between Antonio (the merchant of Venice referred to in the title), and Shylock, a Jewish money-lender.  At the time that the story was set, there was much bad feeling between Christians and Jews, and indeed Jews in Venice were required to live in a ghetto of sorts, and to wear red caps in public, to identify as Jewish.  Antonio is approached by his friend Bassanio, who has squandered all of his money on his lavish lifestyle, and wants to borrow money off Antonio in order that he can be a suitor to Portia, a rich heiress – if Bassanio marries Portia, all of her riches will be his.  Antonio cannot lend him the money, but agrees to act as guarantor if Bassanio can borrow the money elsewhere.  Bassanio does so – from Shylock, who attaches a condition to his lending, that if the money is not repaid, Antonio will have to literally forfeit a pound of his flesh to Shylock.

I have watched and enjoyed many Shakespeare film adaptations, and approached this one with high hopes – only, sadly, to have them dashed.  Unfortunately, I found this adaptation to be boring and laborious.  Joseph Fiennes and Lynda Collins were not convincing as Bassanio and Portia; David Harewood played a small part in the film, in which he was great, but sadly he is in it only briefly.  Kris Marshall and Mackenzie Crook did decent enough jobs as Bassanio’s friend Graziano, and Launcelot Gobbo (a young man who works for Shylock), but they were not enough to save this film.

I am however, going to make mention of Al Pacino’s performance, which was simply outstanding.  If the rest of the cast (Jeremy Irons aside – he did a great job) had been as good as Pacino, this film would have been fantastic and one I would doubtless have watched over and over.  Pacino stole every single scene he was in, and engendered real sympathy in me for his character at the end.  Although Shylock is often portrayed and interpreted as a villain, I felt that he was a victim of the times and culture that he lived in, and the craftiness of others.  (Much as I enjoy Shakespeare, I don’t believe that either Bassanio or Portia come acres as very decent or likeable characters in the play).

It looks luscious and colourful, but for me, this film was a case of style of over content.  It may be worth seeing for the performance of Al Pacino, but other than that, this is one I won’t be watching again.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Michael Radford

Producers: Michael Hammer, Peter James, Robert Jones, Alex Marshall, James Simpson, Manfred Wilde, Gary Hamilton, Andrea Iervolino, Pete Maggi, Julia Verdin, Andreas Bajohra, Bob Bellion, Cary Brokaw, Michael Cowan, Jimmy de Brabant, Edwige Fenech, Nigel Goldsack, Luciano Martino, Barry Navidi, Jason Piette, Bob Portal, Jean-Claude Schlim, Clive Waldron, Roberto Almagia, Irene Masiello

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Michael Radford

Main cast: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynda Collins, Kris Marshall, Zuleikha Robinson, Charlie Cox, Heather Goldenhersh, Mackenzie Crook

Read Full Post »

Before anyone watches this film they should probably know that it in no way attempts to tell the story of Giacomo Casanova; instead this is a fictionalised account of a specific period in Casanova’s life.  It’s full of historical inaccuracies, but it’s clearly not trying to present any semblance of truth, and instead is more a comedy of errors, with plenty of visual gags.

In essense, the infamous seducer Casanova (Heath Ledger) is ordered to wed a virgin, or else be arrested on crimes of fornication.  He quickly proposes to a young girl who is smitten with him, but then he meets the headstrong and intelligent Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller) and falls for her.  However, she is not aware of his true identity, and to complicate matters, she is engaged to a distant relative who she has never met.  Casanova pretends to be the fiance, while in the meantime, the young girl who he previously became engaged to is the object of affection for Francesca’s brother – who also has no idea of Casanova’s real identity.  Sounds complicated, but on the screen it all plays out well, with plenty of moments of humour.  Throughout all this, Bishop Pucci (Jeremy Irons) is on Casanova’s tail and is also trying to find a famous heretical writer – but further identity mix ups get in the way…!

The film is strictly played for laughs and on the whole it works well.  Heath Ledger looks nothing like how I would expect Casanova to look, but he plays the role well and with considerable charm – and looks like he’s having great fun doing it.  Jeremy Irons seems to positively revel in playing the evil Bishop who wants to capture and kill Casanova, and Oliver Platt is also wonderful as Francesca’s unknown fiance.  Omid Dajlili plays Lupo, Casanova’s manservant, and provides many laughs.  Mention should also be made of Lena Olin, as Francesca’s mother.  She was very funny and looked absolutely beautiful.  The only slightly weak link in the cast was Sienna Miller, who was never really convincing enough as the feisty woman who Casanova falls for.  However there was plenty enough in the film to make up for that.

Venice itself looked gorgeous, and is shown off to its best effect here (it made me want to visit there!), and the costumes were also terrific.  The classical musical score, including some of Vivaldi’s work was perfect for the film, and so nice in fact that I would like to buy the soundtrack to the film.

This film is basically an old fashioned romp through 18th century Venice.  Low on accuracy, but high on laughs with a smattering of romance (although the emphasis is definitely on comedy), and a nice twist at the end.  Overall, an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Lasse Hallstrom

Writers: Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberley Simi, Michael Cristofer

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Oliver Platt, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Omin Djalili

Read Full Post »