Condensed version of the Shakespeare tragedy. Laurence Fishburne is Othello, the talented general serving the Duke of Venice. At the outset of the film, he and a senator’s daughter, Desdemona (Irene Jacob), are married in secret. His ancient, Iago (Kenneth Branagh), has been passed over for lieutenantship, and thirsts for revenge. The tryst between the moor and Desdemona provides the opportunity he has been looking for. This version of the bard’s play has been edited down for film audiences; and, although the content is the same (no new passages have been added), many speeches have been truncated to one or two lines, and several scenes have been completely axed. It is almost like watching the Cliff’s Notes version of the play. However, the acting is superb. Kenneth Branagh oozes villainy, Laurence Fishburne glowers with rage, and Irene Jacob looks beautifully befuddled. The direction, by screenwriter Oliver Parker, is adequate. His adaptation gives him the freedom to split scenes into different exotic locations, as well as the chance to expose the sex scenes alluded to, but not explicitly shown, in the play. Overall, it’s not a masterpiece, but it may make Shakespeare more accessible to some.
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