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The Merchant of Venice (2004 film)

The Merchant of Venice is a 2004 romantic drama film based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. It is the first full-length sound film in English of Shakespeare's play—other versions are videotaped productions which were made for television, including John Sichel's 1973 version and Jack Gold's 1980 BBC production.

The Merchant of Venice
Merchant of Venice.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Radford
Produced byCary Brokaw
Michael Cowan
Jason Piette
Barry Navidi
Luciano Martino
Screenplay byMichael Radford
Based onThe Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare
StarringAl Pacino
Jeremy Irons
Joseph Fiennes
Lynn Collins
Music byJocelyn Pook
CinematographyBenoît Delhomme
Edited byLucia Zucchetti
UK Film Council
Arclight Films
Spice Factory
MoVision Entertainment
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • 3 December 2004 (2004-12-03) (UK)
  • 29 December 2004 (2004-12-29) (US)
  • 11 February 2005 (2005-02-11) (Italy)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$30 million[1]
Box office$21,417,725[1]

The title character is the merchant Antonio (Jeremy Irons), not the Jewish moneylender Shylock (Al Pacino) who is the more prominent character. This adaptation follows the text, but omits much. Director Michael Radford believed that Shylock was Shakespeare's first great tragic hero who reaches a catastrophe due to his own flaws.[2][3] The film begins with text and a montage of how the Jewish community is abused by the Christian population of Venice and brings attention to the fact that, as a convert, Shylock would have been cast out of the Jewish ghetto in Venice.

The film is a co-production between the United Kingdom, Italy, and Luxembourg.




The Merchant of Venice received generally positive reviews; it has a "fresh" rating of 72% at Rotten Tomatoes based on 124 critic reviews, with the consensus, "A respectable if uneven take on the Bard's The Merchant of Venice."[4] On Metacritic the film has an average score of 63/100.[5] Most critics praised both the interpretation of the Shylock character by Michael Radford and Al Pacino[2] and the dark, realistic look of the streets of Venice, for which production designer Bruno Rubeo was honoured by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. Reception to the film's treatment of antisemitism was mixed, with some critics praising Radford's contextualizing choices but feeling that they were nonetheless unable to fully prevent Shylock from being an antisemitic caricature,[6][7]and others feeling that Shylock's villainy was sanitized in order to make him into an overly sympathetic victim of prejudice.[8] The film was noted for its emphasis on the love triangle aspect of Bassanio's relationships with Antonio and Portia, including a kiss between Bassanio and Antonio.[9]

In 2005, the film had a Royal Premiere in the presence of Prince Charles and received a BAFTA nomination for Best Costume Design.

Its worldwide theatrical gross was about $21.3 million, with a production budget of $30 million.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The Merchant of Venice at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b Podgorski, Daniel (5 November 2015). "Remakes are Not your Enemy: Analyzing a Scene from Michael Radford's Film Version of The Merchant of Venice". The Gemsbok. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  3. ^ Radford, Michael (2004). "Shakespeare and the Jews". Landmark Theatres. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 12 February 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ "William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  5. ^ "The Merchant of Venice Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (20 January 2005). "The Merchant of Venice".
  7. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (9 December 2004). "A very Jewish villain". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (6 December 2004). "Sanitizing Merchant: Pacino Plays Shylock Like a Grouchy Tevya". The Observer.
  9. ^ "Was the Merchant of Venice gay?". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 28 December 2004.

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