“He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”
I don’t have a huge problem with old movies, books or stories in general being less than sensitive when it comes matters of race, gender and religion etc. As wrong or as misguided as those attitudes can be, I still think it’s OK that they exist, as long as we acknowledge how wrong and misguided they were. And hopefully even use them to keep moving in the right direction. So while they’re existence doesn’t bother me, I am a little confused by the perpetuation of them. Was Shakespeare an anti-Semite? One look at The Merchant of Venice I’d have to assume yes. And while I have no problem with the play still existing today, I have no idea why someone would want to make a lush, big budget movie version in the new millennium, that only seems to perpetuate Shakespeare’s terrible, terrible attitude.
Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) has a problem. He’s got his heart set on Portia (Lynn Collins), but wooing her requires a crap load of money that he doesn’t have. So he goes to his friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons) for help. Antonio has a problem, he’s technically rich, but cash poor at the moment while his fleet of trade ships is all at sea, making his next fortune. So Antonio gives his bond to local money lender, Shylock (Al Pacino). Shylock has a problem, he’s Jewish, and in 16th century Venice, that basically means being a second class citizen. It also means being abused and spat on regularly by the Christian Antonio. (more…)