Comparing the Films

This week you will have the opportunity to watch two different film versions of the same play--The Merchant of Venice.

Film directors have many choices to make, especially when putting Shakespeare plays on the big screen. For one thing, Shakespeare gave very few stage directions, so directors must choose which nonspeaking characters to include in scenes, how the actors deliver lines, not to mention music, lighting, and a score of other variables.

You will be watching two versions of The Merchant of Venice this week, and comparing them based on a a series of variables. You will surprised at how different the two films are, even though the follow basically the same script.

The first version was filmed in 2001, and directed by Michael Radford. It is a bigger budget film with Italian scenery that was shown in theaters. The second was directed by Trevor Nunn in 2001 and shown on PBS Masterpiece Theater. It is performed on stage and filmed.

Before watching the films, take time to read interviews by these two directors. They provide interesting insight on their interpretation of the play and the reasoning behind their production choices. 

After reading the interviews, it is time to start watching the films. Please allow ample time, and be patient as the film clips upload!

In comparing the two films, take notes on and be prepared to write about the following elements:

1. Visual cues: lighting, camera angles, blocking (how actors are positioned and how they move on stage/screen) , other characters in the scene and their reactions to the actor's words and actions.

2. Text: Do both scenes use the same text? How do the respective actor's deliver the lines? Think about speed, emphasis, emotion, volume of their voices, etc.

3. Aural Cues: What about music? Sound effects? Background noise?

4. Other Production choices: Look at the set. The set refers to the actual stage for the performance. How is it decorated? Look also at the setting. Setting refers to the place, time, scenery, props, costumes, etc. You will notice BIG differences here.

5. Think about:  How do the different director's choices affect how you perceive Shylock and other characters? Which version is more sympathetic to Shylock? Which version do you like better, and why?
Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:20 PM