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Othello (Widescreen/Full Screen)

Laurence Fishburne , Kenneth Branagh , Oliver Parker    R (Restricted)   DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 109.48
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Othello (Widescreen/Full Screen) + Great Performances: King Lear
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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 Irène Jacob (Red) as Desdemona. --Tom Keogh

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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Acting Nov. 21 2003
I've always been a fan of Kenneth Branagh and both his acting and directing abilities. However, in the film interpretation of "Othello," I was blown away by how well he fit the role of Iago. In the play, Iago has to be two-faced all the time. He shows one side of him to one person, and another side to another. In the film, Iago works very hard to keep up his appearance with all the different characters. No character sees more than one side of him, and his plots are kept to himself. Iago is an actor, and Branagh had to perform his part and I think he did it incredibly. While talking to Othello, his facial reactions would visibly change when Othello looked the other way; the audience saw glimpses of Iago's true motives, but they were always hidden from Othello. It was incredible how quickly the transition from a sinister expression to a loving and loyal expression was made. In one scene, Iago and Othello are hugging, and Iago's face reflects contempt as soon as his face is beside Othello's face.
Iago's changes aren't simply when Othello is around, but the changes are the same for when Iago deals with Roderigo. In the scenes with Roderigo, Iago has to perform doubly hard because he's being partially truthful with Iago. He's showing part of his true motives, but he still has to hide them to some extent to convince Roderigo to do his bidding. The scenes between Branagh and Michael Maloney probably impressed me the most. Roderigo may have been gullible or easily convinced, but Iago was still convincing and persuasive enough to move Roderigo from absolute hatred and distrust to absolute loyalty and thankfulness. In one scene, Roderigo is threatening to kill Iago and by the end of the scene, they're hugging and Iago can barely convince Roderigo to leave his side.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Go with another version March 9 2002
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Adaptation--Wonderful Cast Oct. 20 2003
I am confused with many of the editorial reviews on the site. This incarnation of Othello is, in my mind, nearly perfect. Sure, it can't encapsulate everything Shakespeare intended, but it stays true to his themes of jealousy, obsession and power, and featured fantastic acting and production values.
What can I say about Othello that hasn't already been said in dozens of dissertations already? As one of the "big four" (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Othello) it has remained a benchmark for tragedies for centuries. Some people might scoff at the film's intent to make Shakespeare accessible to the lay viewer, but it truly doesn't hurt the story or interfere with Shakespeare's always delightful prose. In short, the movie outperforms any preconceived notions one might have.
The cast is wonderful. A pre-Matrix Lawrence Fishburne stars as the Moor, Irene Jakob as Desdemona, and the infallible Kenneth Branaugh as Iago, Shakespeare's most complex and calculating villain. Often in Shakespeare plays, the villain is more interesting than the hero, and that is certainly true here. Branaugh steals every scene he is in with his coldly malevolent performance, and his asides to the audience are drenched in dread and rage. One can nearly pity the man, he comes off as so tortured. It is perhaps the best performance I've ever seen out of an actor, period. Fishburne was pretty much a nobody when the film was made, but that doesn't stop him from holding his own with Brannaugh and churning out the iambic pentameter. He hits his marks very well and is very convincing when it comes to acting with passion. Irene Jakob is not necessarily the choice I would have made for Desdemona. I would have chosen someone with a more coquettish personality.
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As with most Shakespeare tragedies, it is difficult to make the magnificent play "Othello" into a film without making it seeming overly dramatic and haughty. This film is neither,and draws you in from the first scene taking place on a dark night in Venice.
When a director takes on a Shakespeare play, he has a slight advantage in that he already has an incredible stroy to work with that he does not have to (and should not) alter it at all.
The daunting part is finding actors who can play these characters, who have been read about and loved for centuries.
Laurence Fishburne's Othello is more sympathetic and noble than many would imagine the play's Othello to be. This works out nicely, as the viewer feels for Othello the entire time, and fears his downfall. Fishburne makes a remarkable transition in the film, and his love for Desdemona is very convincing.
Desdemona (Irene Jacob) is the picture of innocence and love. Irene Jacob and Laurence Fishburne have a great on-screen connection.
Kenneth Branagh (who plays Iago) brings yet another eye-catching Shakespeare character to the screen. He plays Iago with restrained anger and hate...you can see it bubbling through his calm demeanor.
If you enjoyed this film, you must rent Branagh's other Shakespeare films such as "Much Ado About Nothing" if you are in the mood for a comedy, or "Henry V" for an emotional epic.
Rated R for Sexuality and some violence
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This movie was very well done!
Everyone who loves Shakespeare or is learning about Shakespeare should see this movie. I studied Shakespeare in College and wish I had seen this movie back then. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Demetrios Angelis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
If you ever want to "show" somebody how wonderful Shakespeare can be, this is a GREAT mnovie to do it with! Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2009 by Murray Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars I dont remember
i watched this movie in my English class because we have finished reading the book. i dont remember the movie because i was half asleep while watching it. Read more
Published on May 18 2005 by Matthew
2.0 out of 5 stars Required to watch......
For school I was required to watch this since we read the play Othello. I didn't think the movie was that good because some of the acting when it was supposed to be sad I was... Read more
Published on April 28 2004 by Glycerine
3.0 out of 5 stars Laurence Fishburne's talent is wasted
Poor Laurence Fishburne. I felt so sorry for him watching this movie because he gives a passionate and multi-dimensional performance as Othello and yet, no one else in the cast... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2003 by Mathias
5.0 out of 5 stars Fishburn At His Best!
Watching this movie will prove the superb talents and versatility of Laurence Fishburn. So believable is he as the strong warrier, and yet so tender and deeply in love with his... Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2003 by Ginger
2.0 out of 5 stars this laurence is no olivier
the only thing this version has on olivier's version is its natural setting. otherwise, all - and i do mean ALL - of the performances are decidedly inferior to the 1965 film. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Movie
I've seen every version of Othello that's been made (including 3 stage productions) and have not seen a better one. Kenneth B. (Iago) gives his best performance yet.
Published on Feb. 7 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2003 by Diana
4.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2002 by Tivor
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