The what now? That sounds like a Shakspeare play or something. Which it is. And this is the film review category which means I must have watched it. Which I did. Which is weird. Which it is.
That’s a lot of whiches. More, perhaps, than Macbeth. Watch it, though, I did.
Like it? Kinda.
I have a deep-seated loathing of Shakespeare. It’s nothing personal. I didn’t know the guy and he didn’t seem to stand for anything I disagree with. It’s predominantly to do with the complete ****er of an English teacher I had at school. The man had the ability to take something you held dear and make you loathe it with a passion simply so that you wouldn’t agree with him.
Imagine the sliminess that exudes from Nick Griffin. Put it into a character who looks more like a stretched tall English butler and you have an idea of what I’m getting at.
As a result, I built literary brick walls between myself and the Bard. And Chaucer as well, but in fairness that really is gobbledygook. This is a shame as, despite being in overly-flowery language, Shakespeare’s not that bad. You’d be amazed how many turns of phrase we use regularly that come from his plays.
One prime example – as it’s from The Merchant of Venice – is “a pound of flesh”. This is the payment that Shylock (itself a generic term for “Jew” which is somewhat less commonly used now) demands of Antonio should he default on a loan. We don’t use it for quite the same reason in the modern day, but the fact that a phrase used by a playwright over 400 years ago is still coined today – and by people who won’t have even heard of the work, let alone read it – is pretty impressive.
Now I’ll be honest. While watching the film, had I not been given a rough idea of the storyline and had a (prospective) English teacher sat with me pointing things out I would have missed a lot of the detail. The story itself isn’t too hard to follow, but for the uninitiated Shakespeare’s flowery dialogue (I guess scholars would call it “detailed prose”) is still hard to follow.
What this did allow me to do was something I don’t often manage – to concentrate on the performances. On how the words were delivered. Given that it was often hard to grasp their meaning, it was left to the actors to convey the emotions.
For that reason, this has to be one of Al Pacino‘s finest displays. I’ve always rated him. Like Morgan Freeman, he can be in a complete dud but you’ll always remember the parts with them in as they’re simply superb actors.
He plays Shylock in the adaptation I watched – the 2004 film directed by Michael Radford. Pacino’s monologue (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” – that one) was positively wonderful. Jeremy Irons as Antonio is, again, a great actor though he really comes into the limelight during the final courthouse scene.
Would I go out of my way to watch another Shakespeare adaptation? Or even pay Â£30 or so for a theatre ticket? I don’t know. I still like my entertainment to be “easy”. I don’t mind thinking about something while I’m watching it, or afterwards. But having to read or be told about what happens prior to viewing so you can follow it still seems like too much hard work.
I have to thank Kat for convincing me to watch this one, if for no other reason than the aforementioned Pacino scene. It’s certainly given me a little more respect for the little bald guy with the ruff (Shakespeare, that is), and I’ve enjoyed doing some reading on Wikipedia about the play. I still think, though, I prefer my dramas in modern language.