The Moorish general Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality it is all part of the scheme of a bitter ensign named Iago.
Essay film shot for TV including Orson Welles reflections on Othello close to the Moviola, a chat with Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir and fragments of a conversation with the audience in Boston after a screening of the film.
Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian aristocrat, elopes with Moorish military hero Othello, to the great resentment of Othello's envious underling Iago. Alas, Iago knows Othello's weakness, and with chilling malice works on him with but too good effect... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
To pay the bills on this film, which took three years to make, Orson Welles took supporting roles in several films, one of which was The Black Rose (1950). During the filming of this, he greatly annoyed director Henry Hathaway by borrowing various costumes and cameras for use on "Othello". Hathaway complained to his boss Darryl F. Zanuck about this, but the latter, a friend of Welles', just laughed it off. Hathaway was still complaining in interviews in the 1970s. See more »
There was once in Venice a moor, Othello, who for his merits is the affairs of war was held in great esteem. It happened that he fell in love with a young and noble lady called Desdemona, who drawn by his virtue became equally enamoured of Othello...
See more »
Commenting on Shakespeare films is rather like admiring Easter Eggs.
First the inside: this was never a great play, relative to Shakespeare's other works. His great plays are about ideas, with characters as vectors to prod and activate them. This play is merely about characters, which makes it attractive to actors. That's certainly why Welles selected it.
Welles is the Sinatra of dramatic reading, with phrasing mastered in his radio days. All else is acceptable (at least to my tastes) so far as the play goes.
Now the shell, and here is what makes this film one of the most important. When Welles moved into film, he did so as an architect. He understood that great film constructs a space that includes the audience. So he worked with the most direct tools, buildings themselves. These sets are remarkable. I cannot imagine how he found them, how he could have seen the possibilities.
Selection aside, how he uses the spaces! View this film at least once in silence. I rate Welles as one of the 20th century's great architects and predict that this film will be mined when we get around to really creating cyberbuilding.
19 of 32 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?