Shakespearean plays can boast of having a large number of cinematographic adaptations. Some are older, some more modern. For instance, this version of Othello by Oliver Parker dates back to 1995, but it is just as good as contemporary films.
The plot itself is straightforward: the Moorish general Othello, appointed to lead the Venetian army against the Turks, is faced with a much greater challenge. One of his officers, Iago, thinking that Othello has taken advantage of his wife, plans on ruining his lord’s marriage with the noble Desdemona.
Love, jealousy, thirst for revenge and misplaced trust are the main themes of this tragic story. This time the sole factor responsible for the future of the characters won’t be anything else except their mindless actions.
Parker’s decisions about the casting are excellent: Laurence Fishburne as Othello, Irène Jacob as Desdemona, and, last but not least, Kenneth Branagh as Iago. This last renowned actor and director, who is known for having devoted a good deal of his career to Shakespeare’s plays, stands out despite not being the protagonist. Actually, he greatly outshines his colleagues. He plays the part of Iago, the puppeteer controlling everyone’s heated passions and fears, who plays a wicked game with them as if they were chess figures. He elegantly pulls off his monologues which are nothing like the philosophical soliloquies we hear in Hamlet. Magnified by close-ups, these speeches go straight to the audience, dragging people right into the very heart of the scenes. These devices also help to reach the core of Iago’s interpretation that at times brings in comic moments to release the overall tension.
The film, set against the fascinating background of Venice and of the Orsini-Odescalchi castle in the city of Bracciano, is heavily marked by Parker’s theatrical perspective. It often departs from the original play, even going as far as suggesting a racial tension which wasn’t meant by Shakespeare.
Despite the cutting of some of the original scenes and the adding of new ones, Parker manages to mix authentic elements and innovative ideas in his compelling and moving work which is undoubtedly worth seeing.
Virginia Arreghini, Giulio Nadali, Ambra Hasanbashaj, Virginia Scantamburlo e Antonietta Solimando