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"The Merchant of Venice"

"I was Bassanio to his Shylock. Wonderful performance; thank God that’s on film."

(Jeremy Brett, in the "Desert Island Discs" radio interview, speaking about Laurence Olivier in "The Merchant of Venice")
I would say Mr Brett was far too modest about his own performance...

I had first read the play (more than once) 13-15 years ago. It is the most controversial of Shakespeare's comedies, because of the subject it deals with...and because of historical events which took place since Shakespeare's time.

I'd never seen it performed until learning last year that there was a film of this play, with Laurence Olivier playing Shylock and Jeremy Brett playing Bassanio; that intrigued me and I watched the film last June. This past week, I re-read the play and watched the film again; I was even more impressed with the performance as I was now better able to pick up the nuances.

This was the first film I've seen with Jeremy Brett besides the Granada series and "My Fair Lady"--and I must say I could quite see what he meant when he said that he is at his best playing romantic heroes--the role suits him to perfection. I must say I didn't like Bassanio much when I first read the play--what kind of friend allows a friend to enter into such a dangerous agreement? His attempts to dissuade Antonio were rather half-hearted, I thought...But in the film, much to my surprise, I liked him--Mr Brett plays him as such an affectionate gentleman, that, despite Bassanio's faults, one cannot help liking him. The facial expressions and the gestures say more than words--him trying to hold back Gratiano during the courtroom scene...and here, for instance, from 06:09 to 06:29:

There is much more, of course, that could be said about the play itself, but as this is not a Shakespeare comm, I shall end here :)
Disclaimer: clip is from "The Merchant of Venice", released on TV in 1973; no copyright infringement intended.

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