You’d Been Prick’d

I’ve seen more Shakespeare movies than read his plays. Sometimes I wonder how I get through them. The actors speak English yet they sound so foreign. The lines seems like rhyming mumbo jumbo and yet the message comes across clear. For years… no… for centuries Will Shakespeare has been the man! But since he’s dead, I’d like to praise Al Pacino instead. He’s up there… really up there in my favorite actors. He can really ham up a scene. I think he’s the best aging actor. Who among his peers are still as volatile as he is?

Pacino plays Shylock, a Jewish merchant of Venice. During 1596, Jews were practically denied of everything. They were restricted in “Geto” and must wear a red cap if they were to mingle with the common Venetians. They were limited to the practice of usury. This is because lending money at an interest is deemed too dirty for Christians and yet it’s economically good for the city. The story gets interesting when a man (Jeremy Irons) cannot pay back Shylock. The Jewish merchant requests for a pound of flesh near the heart, if the debt is not paid.

Shylock is the play’s villain and yet he’s the most memorable and elicits the most pathos. Despite the anti-Semitic leanings, Shakespeare fully understands the source of Shylock’s villainy. We feel the heat that makes Shylock’s blood boil with hatred. The scene where Pacino recites the lines “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” is worthy enough for recommending the movie. Oddly though, there are reasons for disliking the movie. Shylock appears on one half of the story. The other half is a comedy involving two sets of lovers going through Shakespearean complications. On the whole, their pursuit of love is trifling compared to Shylock’s hungry pine for payback.

This might be the only movie where a happy ending depressed me more than a movie with an unhappy ending would. It feels like a better story can come out of “The Merchant of Venice.” But I can understand why Shakespeare would write it the way he did. During his time, writing a favorable end for Shylock is like making Osama Bin Laden victorious. I imagine English folks are that repelled by the Jews. Who knows.

Well, you know I’m already biased since I’m a Pacino fan. So more or less, I’m writing out of my ass to defend this movie. If you watched this film and you think I didn’t see enough of the flaws to flunk it, then I apologize. It must be the Venetian blinds.

Grade: B