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Powerful, passionate and sexy film version of the play
on 11 March 2011
This is a taut, sexy, and passionate film version of Othello, with brilliant performances from everyone.
Fishburne, especially, reminds us that Othello isn't just noble, honourable, grave as in some performances, but is also magnetic, powerful and overwhelmingly sexual. His screen presence is palpable, and he rarely has to raise his voice to make his point, simply fixes us with his unmoving and deadly gaze. His overwhelming love and desire for Desdemona is tangible without being excessive, and the switch from confidence to jealousy is superbly done.
Branagh is a compelling Iago, but the film subscribes to the idea that he is driven by a homoerotic desire for Othello which has never convinced me. The vow scene, especially, is played as a kind of twisted `marriage' between the two men.
The screenplay does take some liberties with Shakespeare's text and especially notable is the excision of the flirtatious banter between Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia and Iago on arrival at Cyprus, which serves to remove some of the agency from Desdemona's character. Similarly, the film removes the lines where Othello mentions Desdemona's speaking "dispraisingly" of him before she got to know him better, again removing some of her maturity and independence.
But these are small quibbles. Overall this is an excellent film of the play with powerful performances from everyone. If you're studying Othello, then this makes it brilliantly accessible, relevant and contemporary.