This is the beauty of great works of art in any of its forms; humanity does not change. Throughout time, we still and always will appreciate the things that stir our emotions: love, honour, betrayal, courage, sorrow, death. Are you familiar with Shakespeare’s gripping tale of “Othello”? If so, here is your opportunity to become re-acquainted with this masterpiece while enjoying exceptional acting, adept cinematography and the absorbing tragic tale true to its origin. If you are unfamiliar with the tale, prepare yourself for many mind-blowing twists and turns at the hands and lips of the master evil conniver, Iago.
The Plot… Very Simplified: Othello, a respected Army General, secretly marries Desdemona, much to the envy of his friend, Iago. Iago, motivated by jealousy and complete lack of compassion toward others, has “hatred & jealousy” to motivate his every move… and evil-doings at the mercy of a brilliant manipulator and ruthless rogue means tremendous trouble and sorrow for all. But I get ahead of myself. To begin, Iago awakens Desdemona’s Father with the news of the clandestine joining: “A dark ram is topping your white ewe…. “Ah! Shakespeare!
Desdemona is a lovely and gentle young woman with more than her share of admirers ~ not only Othello, whom she dearly loves, but Iago, who covets her. Others prove to be the tools that Iago manipulates to bring an end to the newlywed’s happiness. With ploys too intricate and devious for most minds to conceive, and certainly too involved for me to detail here, Iago begins his clever and destructive scheme to undermine the couple’s union. As Iago says, “There are many events in the womb of time… which will be delivered”. Iago manipulates people and events to cast suspicion on Desdemona and make it appear as though she may be having an affair.
He uses her own loving spirit and good nature against her: “I shall turn her goodness into pitch and out of her own goodness make the net that shall unmesh them all”, confesses Iago to the viewing audience! By inference and the planting of false evidence, Iago successfully raises suspicion of a love triangle to Othello. Othello is successfully becoming undone by seeds of suspicion. The plot thickens. And it weaves and bobs and twists and turns and takes us on a delicious yet unsettling serpentine chase through treachery and trickery. This is Shakespeare, after all – a master storyteller!
But …. what about the production? Is a modern filming of Shakespeare for everyone’s taste? Clearly, no. The Language True to the Bard’s original, “Othello’s” dialogue comes from the pages of Shakespeare’s work. And it is difficult… at first. The heightened speech of the day is not we are accustom to: there are no short cuts taken – characters express themselves at great length and with great eloquence and wit. And one cannot deny the beauty of the language – delicate even when being bold; polite, even when being brusque. But don’t be prematurely put off by this.
Bear with it a short time and it pays off. If you make it past the first five minutes, you may eventually become comfortable, as the rhythm starts to become internalized and soon begins to sound quite accessible. Despite the initial difficulties in comprehension, I became rapt in the plot and the intense concentration required proved to my benefit , as I became completely involved in the drama. The Acting To compliment the language, the acting proves impeccable and indispensable! The characters lend vibrant facial expressions that betray their motives and emotions.
In fact, one can say that in any modern version of Shakespeare, average audiences must rely heavily on other cues – like facial expressions and actions, to bring greater understanding to the rapidly moving dialogue and storyline. This version is a great success! I have never been more impressed with Laurence Fishburne’s acting than in this film. In this challenging production, he demonstrated his considerable skill. But Kenneth Branagh , as Iago, was the real scene stealer! Few can do “ruthless” like Branagh! And, though the role seemed to require less energy and scope, Irene Jacob was convincingly the sweet and gentle Desdemona.
The love between Othello and Desdemona is demonstrated so clearly, so unmistakably, that as a viewer, I was angered by Iago’s attempts to destroy it. A good film makes you care! This is a good film! I cared about Desdemona; I was abhorred at Othello’s stupidity for believing the trap set by Iago. It was horrible to watch the jubilant happiness of the new lovers become undone. The perception of the heartbreak to come was intense. I detested Iago for his ruthlessness and hatefulness! All the emotions audiences felt so long ago – they still exist today.
What Else? There a couple of scenes that were unusual – when Iago speaks to the camera – to the audience-and I suppose this might have been originally a soliloquy. But they seem very out of place. All of a sudden I was jolted out of my “suspension of disbelief” and cosiness of the play, by the intrusion of a personal message from one of the actors! On the other hand, Iago, though a cruel character, is a treat to watch as he spins his webs of deception then glances knowingly at the camera. This is one of Branagh’s most inspired roles!
Although it has been many years since I read “Othello”, the film seems to remain true to its original while benefiting from new technology and artistic perceptions. It is a commendation to William Shakespeare (though he doesn’t need it from me) as well as the Director and actors who moved the production from “theatre in the round” to “Castle Rock Productions”. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.