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Writer/Director Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband) adapts Shakespeare's towering tragedy of passion and jealousy with shattering performances by Kenneth Branagh (Iago) Irene Jacob (Desdemona) and Laurence Fishburne as the title-role warrior who ruled armies but not his own heart.Running Time: 125 min.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre:?DRAMA Rating:?R UPC:?053939253023
Oliver Parker, a stage and film actor (Hellraiser), made his directorial debut with this scaled-back version of Shakespeare's play about the paranoid Moor, Othello (Laurence Fishburne), and his manipulative friend, Iago (Kenneth Branagh). Parker gets the story so lean he starts running a little short on the author's subtext, and if it's possible to overemphasize the banality of Iago's scheming and Othello's malleability, he does so. The director throws out what is universal in the story and makes it all seem merely ordinary, human, and unfortunate, which is the opposite of what watching Shakespeare should be. In the end, it's hard to care what these characters have done to one another. Branagh's Iago is a little flat and unfocused, while Fishburne is excellent as a quieter Othello than we're accustomed to. With Ir¨¨ne Jacob (Red) as Desdemona. --Tom Keogh
- Look to your wife
This is a dark version of a dark play. Not just in feel and drama, but in setting. I believe only a scene or two is filmed in the daylight. The bulk of this film takes place in the dank cellars, the dark of night and the closed bedrooms where intrigue and guile rule the day.
This is an unusual Shakespeare adaptation, in that nothing funky is being done with it. There is no twist in the time setting, no song and dance, no Italian wonderment. It is about as straight of an adaptation as I have seen. Being this, it lacks any distinction or special genius, but it is quite an able piece of film.
Laurence Fishburn is a great Othello, delivering the lines and slipping under Iago's silver spell. He lacks a certain aura of strength generally associated with Othello, but is otherwise excellent. Kenneth Branagh is a superior Iago, and this may be one of the best performances he has given. He plays an excellent villain, and his performance is the one bright flare in the the film. The dialog is well done, staying with Branagh's conversational style. The rest of the cast are all capable players, easily recognizable from the Shakespeare on film stable.
All in all, I really enjoy this film. It is not a work of genius. It is not amazing. But it is an excellent, workman like filmed version of a difficult play and a worthy edition to any Shakespeare on film collection....more info
- Great Service
Excellent film. My order was exactly what I asked for and it was delivered very fast. Thank you so much for your wonderful service....more info
- Othello - Branagh, also vs. Otello
Jealousy can ruin lives and can come from years of pain or from a place indiscernible. William Shakespeare was fascinated by jealousy and what it can do to relationships. Shakespeare used his fascination with jealousy to create a gripping tragedy. Othello is the story of two lovers ruined by an outsider consumed by jealousy. Iago, motivated by material and personal gain as well as the sheer love of evil, breeds mistrust between Othello and Desdemona. After much work, Iago brings Othello to the breaking point. He kills Desdemona because he thinks she has betrayed him. He discovers the truth only when it is too late, and atones for his sins by taking his own life. Oliver Parker's 1995 film version of Othello opens in an obvious Venetian setting in the evening. The film is set during the Renaissance and resembles what the story would have looked like if it had really happened in Shakespeare's day. The settings and costumes are entirely realistic and elaborate. The film is done for all audiences and Parker tries to balance action and dialogue. In trying to balance the content of the film, Parker took liberties with the text, changing almost as much as he could while still keeping the title of Shakespeare's play. In discussing the film, Jack Garner claims Parker "eliminated some 50 percent of the original play." Though this may be true, how the story works is the most important, and Brian Webster of the Apollo Movie Guide says, "in this film it does." Though all of Shakespeare's lines may not be in Parker's film version, the poetic form of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter was kept in nearly every line. Still, the delivery of the lines is crucial to the flow of a Shakespearian play. Kenneth Branagh did a masterful job delivering the lines of Iago. Branagh presented his lines in a way that conveyed his emotions and intentions and in a way that is easily understood. His body language is also highly convincing. Though not the vision of evil that Iago epitomizes, Branagh's body movements were so convincing, I found myself loathing him almost immediately. He looks straight into the eyes of Othello as he lies to him about his pure wife. He crumbles hot ash over his fist to symbolize Othello's blackness. He touches Othello's arm with real concern. His true evil can be seen in the way he conducts himself while executing his diabolical plan. Branagh's subtle tactics reveal to the audience how easy it would be for someone like Othello to fall into Iago's trap. A review in the Shakespeare Bulletin praises Branagh saying he "allows us, with searing gestures, to shudder at the repressed heat that burns in Iago's festering imagination" (Crowl). Laurence Fishburne also does a worthy job delivering his lines. Fishburne, playing the tragic hero Othello, is the jealous polar opposite of Iago. Where Iago's jealousy is unfounded, Othello's jealousy is justified in that he thinks his wife is being unfaithful. It was easy to see how tortured Othello was by his jealousy. His expressions showed his pain and his anger. Most notably, as he imagines Cassio and Desdemona together and while smothering innocent Desdemona, Fishburne's face was riddled with pain. Imagery played a crucial role in Parker's adaptation. Things that were not included in Shakespeare's text were used to bring the audience into the story. Scenery and character actions were key to the visual treatment of the film. Still, parts of the film were based on imagery alone. The most memorable part in the film for me is two-fold. While scheming, Iago knocks two chess pieces into deep water and the camera follows the pieces as they sink. The black king and white queen fall into the water, plunging to bottom. Symbolically, the pieces represented Othello and Desdemona like game pieces Iago used and then sent to their demise. At the end of the movie, this image is replicated when the bodies of Othello and Desdemona are slid into the Mediterranean. Though Parker took liberties in adapting Othello to film, the version was enjoyable. The essence of Shakespeare's lines was preserved in the overall sense of the production. I felt awful for Othello and Desdemona and I feared and hated Iago. To me, this shows that Parker succeeded in making Othello come to life again. Shakespeare's stories have lasted into our time because he wrote about universal themes and believable people. His plays can be adapted to many forms and genres and still speak the same truths about people as they did 400 years ago. Shakespeare's works are often seen as plays and films, so I did not expect to find an operatic version of Othello. Franco Zeffirelli's screen adaptation of Giuseppe Verdi's stage production of Otello is a masterpiece. Many people say that music can speak to the soul more deeply than any words ever could. I realized the total truth of this belief after watching Zeffirelli's Otello. The film opens with a large, strong ship being tossed about on a sea of large waves. The stormy opening sets the stage for what is to happen in the rest of the story. In retrospect, the ship seems like a metaphor for Otello's downfall. Otello is a powerful man who is brought down by forces beyond his control. Other scenes in the film speak to Otello's downfall. After the wedding celebration and the fight, Otello goes to Desdemona in his bedroom. Walking down the stairs to the bedroom symbolizes Otello's fall from grace as a result of his mistrust of Desdemona. Desdemona, the innocent character who has no tragic flaw, is found in the bedroom surrounded by white linens. The linens show her innocence and purity. Desdemona's innocence is further shown in her appearance. She is young and angelic. Her age is portrayed as vastly different from Othello in this version. Parker's adaptation did not reveal any such age difference. Otello's age in the opera "strengthens our impression of his wisdom, restraint, and leadership" (Bevington, 1118), while in truth Otello lets impulse dominate his wisdom and restraint. In Zeffirelli's version, Otello seems to be jealous with regard to Cassio before Iago begins to influence Otello. This jealousy seems to be misplaced. Though it may show the audience that Otello is susceptible to believing that Desdemona has been unfaithful, it takes away from the idea that the two are totally in love. For the story to be believable, Otello must have pure love for Desdemona and have that love ruined by Iago. If the audience sees that Otello does not implicitly trust Desdemona in the beginning, then the audience cannot believe that he ever truly loved her. I am glad that I saw Parker's version before Zeffirelli's. I think that my view of the play would have been tainted just because of the way Zeffirelli treated this situation. Other than the early show of mistrust, Zeffirelli's adaptation shows a great love between Otello and Desdemona. Otello saw her as the missing part of himself. It was as if they each only had one wing and they could only fly embracing one another. Fishburne played a powerful and authoritative Othello, and seemed to be more jealous of losing his wife as property than as the other half of his soul. Another difference between Parker's and Zeffirelli's versions is in the way that Iago's attitude is portrayed. In Zeffirelli's adaptation of Verdi's opera, Iago is filled with complete haterd that is obvious at every turn. Iago watched Otello and Desdemona with pure hatred at their wedding and follows not only them, but Cassio as well. Zeffirelli's version focuses on Iago's hatred of Cassio, which in some small way shows reason why Iago used Cassio in his plot to bring down Otello. Branagh played Othello in a way that made him evil, but Placido Domingo was evil and angry. Zeffirelli's Iago is completely remorseless and cruel. Zeffirelli's version presented many aspects of Shakespeare's play that I feel were left out of Parker's adaptation. Though it was a challenge to watch, it was masterful and captivating. Otello is marvelous and Domingo's voice is enchanting, but no performance could out do Branagh as Iago. His body language, chemistry with the other performers and command of his lines did justice to the words of Shakespeare. The story of Othello can be told many ways, but the essence is always the same. Jealousy can ruin a relationship: jealousy can ruin a person. Insecurity can be as damaging as jealousy. Maybe Shakespeare was warning to keep a close eye on your love. I think he was telling the world that true love trusts and those who are truly in love should never question faithfulness....more info
- A Good Version...
I have seen three other Othello movies and this is my personal favorite. From the way he looks and speaks one would not think Iago is the villain in the story. Laurence Fishburne did a good job portraying Othello and will leave one feeling almost sympathetic to his demise. Overall, it was a good movie!...more info
- Excellent Shakespeare Adaption
I'd have to say that this is the best Shakespeare movie I've ever seen.Laurence Fishburne plays the part of Othello perfectly,and Kenneth Branagh is the best portrayel of Iago I've ever seen.I would reccomend this movie to any fan of Shakespeare.But the only thing w/ this movie, as with any Shakespeare movie, if you don't read the play first in class you don't know whats going on in the movie.I guarantee if you buy this movie, you will not be dissapointed....more info
- Go with another version
This is one of the worst adaptations of Shakespeare yet done for the big screen. The script is completely butchered and the direction is more reminiscent of an MTV video than of Shakespeare. Irene Jacob can't really speak english all that well, so the performance is completely lost, and Brannagh gets just a little too full of himslef. Try another version. Please. The Bard was never meant to look this bad. Especially not for one of his greatest works....more info
- Great Desdemona, [Junky] Iago
The movie is pretty good except for the parts when Iago talks directly to the camera. That is so annerving/annoying! It totally distracts from the play. Desdemona was superiorly played in this movie though, so it's worth a look. What can I say about Othello. He's Laurence Fishburne. Of course he's good. ;)...more info
- See it, even if you don't like Shakespeare!
I must admit that Othello is my favourite Shakespeare play. It's shocking and cunning and you can't stop watching it, even when it gets more and more tragic.
I have to study it for my A Levels and it makes the book so much easier because it puts everything in context.
Admittedly Laurence Fishburne is a fantastic Othello but in some parts he seems to be reading a line rather than saying it naturally and Irene Jacobs' Desdemona is brilliant, her facial expressions completely natural.
However, my favourite character was of course Iago. Kenneth Branagh had Iago's character down perfectly and he was of course perfect in his lines and pronunciation.
Overall, a great film. Even if you don't like Shakespeare, watch it. I didn't liek Shakespeare before I saw this and now I really like his work....more info
Laurence Fishburne goes against type and misses the mark. I'm a big fan of both Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh and bought this title on sight.
As Iago Branagh absolutely oozes wrath and hatred as he stalks his Moorish prey. Branagh really takes the caricature and runs with it. His Iago loves being bad and takes pride in his nefarious doings.
Laurence Fishburne unfortunately never settles in his role. His Moore is too unmilitary to be anything more than a corporal of the guard. He looks uncomfortable in that armor and lacks a commanding presence that any good general would have built in. He is flat and lacks passion . The underlay of violence that should always be under the surface is missing in his Moore. Thus why does he get enticed to marry and how does Iago set up his trap? A passionless Moore is oxymoron....more info
Great movie if you appreciate Shakespeare. It is so fananating to watch. Great Shakespearean workmanship of actors. Thanks for quick and easy sales and delivery. A++++++++++...more info
- Finally a black Moor...Mr. William would have been pleased
For his directorial debut Oliver Parker has chosen a great cast: the always incredible Laurence Fishburn as Othello, and the famous Shakespearean "maniac" Kenneth Branagh as Iago. Like Laurence Olivier, Branagh is another talanted actor, whose name is forever linked to the name of William Shakespeare in the movie industry. However, it's Fishburn who truly carries the film on his shoulders. His portrayal of Othello, with all that mixture of love and hate, devotion and betrayal, passion and intense jealousy, growing slowly into paranoia, makes a deep impression and a strong understanding of who Othello truly was. A very good interpretation of the Shakespearean classic standing in a row with Olivier's, Welles' and Bondarchuk's Othellos with one very major plus - finally a black Othello... ...more info
- A True to Life and History Performance, Brilliant
Mr. Fishburne is riveting as Othello, bringing the pain and jealousy that the character dealt with to life. I find it amazing, however that his blackfaced counterparts are given a higher rating then him for the role. Nevertheless Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branaugh play beautifully together in this modern adaptation. As a brief commentary on the man who seemed a bit miffed about the "Moor", I would like to point out that not only were the Moors black, making Mr. Fishburne a prime choice for the part, but also in Shakespears time, anyone of African features and very dark complexion was referred to as a Moor. Check your history. Again, loved the movie....more info
- Great Iago but weak Othello
Othello is a complex play, no doubt about it - Othello: "What did he say?" Iago: "Lie -" Othello: "Lie with her?" Iago: "With her, on her, what you will." It is a play about lying, all lie almost all the time, even Desdemona - "Handkerchief?" "It is not lost, but what if it were?" Shakespeare lies. A man in the middle of the play stands up and announces he is not drunk, what is the obvious conclusion? Then he tells you the ending and you laugh, now even more convinced he's drunk.
I was not especially pleased with this version, although there is a lot to like about it. Branagh's Iago is brilliant, in a good version of Othello there should be that slight tinge of feeling toward Iago when the end comes, and this is well done; Branagh holds a nice balance between mastermind and in-over-his-head, and he reads Shakespeare better than anyone alive. The rest of the very able cast is superb, most notably the woman playing Emilia (always a juicy role), and, amazingly, a very decent Roderigo (never a juicy role).
But the negatives - Fishburne's Othello is very weak and flat, almost ruins the show. The scene on the beach where he demands the "ocular proof" from Iago is an embarassingly bad reading, he alone of all the cast seems forced and unused to the language. Not all the liberties with the plot were successful, making Desdemona more assertive and worldly for example just begs more the question why she doesn't catch on and act, conversly making her seem more foolish. And the ending is a letdown, mared by some bad cutting and unneccesary inserted dialogue.
Overall, I want to like this but Fishburne doesn't carry it and the play isn't called "Iago". Still a good effort, beautiful production values, good supporting cast, some clever ideas, a great Iago - but no stones for thunder at the center of it all....more info
- Branagh and Fishburne are Superb!
Branagh is the modern day master of Shakespearian plays with yet another outstanding addition to his already abundant collection of Shakespear adaptations. Fishburne is again excellent in this challenging part as he always lives up to my expectations. I can't believe these two guys haven't won an Oscar yet. Definitely a must movie for any of their fans as well as Shakespear lovers abound....more info
- My, what great big teeth you have...
I've read other plays by Shakespeare, but Othello remains my favorite...if only because Iago is one of the most interesting villains I've come across. I was very pleased with Kenneth Branagh's performance. I thought he nailed the part of Iago. The rest of the cast was good, but this was really Branagh's movie.
Iago is not what he seems to be...which makes him so compelling...and so dangerous. He comes disguised as a friend, a mentor...a man you can trust. The only person who witnesses his true disdain for others is his wife, Emilia, but nonetheless becomes one of his many puppets. Towards others, though, it's a friendly smile...but behind his gentle smile lies envy, prejudice and unspeakable rage...rage he cowardly gets others to express for him.
I won't begin to analyze the movie line by line, scene by scene. I'll just quickly point out the two scenes I thought were well executed.
First, I really liked how the director interpreted the scene where Iago first begins poisoning Othello's ear with thoughts of Desdemona's infidelity. Instead of the dialogue occuring in one scene, it's spread out in several scenes...so the poison has a better chance of sinking in.
Second, I liked the interpretation of Iago's last line in the movie. At the end of the movie, Othello is worn out & defeated. When he turns to Iago and demands to know why he tortured his soul, Iago replies, "Demand me nothing; what you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word." One interpretation is that Iago is just as perplexed as Othello as to why he does what he does and, therefore, can't explain any better than Othello could. However, in this movie, the line is interpreted as Iago's final punishment for Othello. Not only does he deny Othello his true love/happiness, but he also denies him any closure. That was the way I interpreted the scene, too, when I read the play.
Overall, I was very pleased with the interpretation of this play....more info
- Oh Iago Iago Iago
Laurence Fishburne turns in an effective performance as Othello, and Irene Jacob's Desdemona is as beautiful as she is vulnerable. But the true star of this screen adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy is undoubtedly Kenneth Branagh's delightfully wicked and memorable Iago. While some uninitiated viewers may find the Shakespearean English hard to comprehend (having the English caption turned on will help immensely), Branagh's crystal-clear delivery and performance will leave little room for confusion about what Iago is up to, and that makes for an extremely enjoyable movie-watching experience.
The fact that the DVD is a bit too bare-bones (there is only the theatrical trailer, nothing else) keeps me from giving it a full 5-star rating. I would have loved to hear some commentaries from the actors (especially Fishburne and Branagh). Nevertheless, this movie should be on the to-watch list of everybody who has even a modicum of interest in Shakespeare....more info
- Surprisingly excellent
For anyone with even the slightest appreciation of Shakespeare this movie is one to watch. The performances are strong without being overbearing. The emphasis always seems right and the flow is almost perfect. Fishburne surprised me as the Moor, his presence and sensitivity were just right. I had previously not given him credit for this much depth as an actor, but his interpretation is excellent. Branagh's tone is light and scheming and in essence the perfect Iago. Jacob's Desdemona was presented with such clarity that one might almost forget they were listening to old English. I had not expected a lot from this movie and came out feeling it to be the among the best screen adaptations of Shakespeare to date....more info
This is Othello at its best. I've seen James Earl Jones in the role and Fishburn tops his performance. Seeing this movie after the fact (almost 3 years after it came out) I was dumbfounded that Fishburn didn't win an Oscar for it, let alone even be nominated. A true travesty. Branagh was yet again perfect as Iago. This is the absolute best that Hollywood could have put out....more info
- Truly Elegant
This dipiction of Skakespeare's Othello can't be done any better. Every English teacher should employ it in their lessons. My advice: read as much of it as necessary (try to read it all in whole-class setting) and then present the video; or read and view it over scheduled sections. Almost any procedure works --- just a fantastic educational tool.
Washington High School
Cedar Rapids, Iowa...more info
- Lots cut. Still lots to like.
Mr Fishburne is good, but of course the play is about
Iago and so Mr Branagh leaves himself the best lines.
Irene Jacob makes for a pleasant Desdemona, but seems
a little unhappy with the lines and does not speak them
And is that Kurt Jurgens as the Duke at the start?
Jings if his voice gets any lower, you will have to
wear a miner's helmet to hear it.
All in all I would say this is a worthy addition to
the ever expanding list of Shakespearean movies....more info
Othello arrived quickly and in good condition. A very seamless, convenient procedure. No snags....more info
- English teacher gives this DVD a "D"
I had heard such good things about this production, but upon viewing the DVD I am left wondering why.
Yes, the sets and costumes look great, but if you are planning on showing this movie to your students after reading the play, be warned. It is pretty explicit. There is full frontal nudity and very suggestive sex scenes. I would not feel at all comfortable viewing this with a classroom of teenagers.
Besides the overt sexuality, I found fault with Branagh's rendition of Iago (which many reviewers here seemed to praise). There were too many asides for my liking. It was like watching an episode of "Moonlighting" (If any of you remember that TV show from the 80s) where the character is constantly speaking into the camera. Rather than letting the Audience gain insight into Iago's thoughts (which is what I believe Shakespeare intended in the soliloquies), Branagh's performance became grandstanding IMO ("Look at me. Aren't I clever.").
I know that good productions of "Othello" are rare. I was told that this version was the best one. Sad to say: if this is the best one, just stick to the book. Don't include this DVD for classroom enrichment....more info