Othello (1995)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragedy, Period Film  |   Release Date - Dec 15, 1995 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Oliver Parker's film version of the Shakespeare classic is unbalanced by the dominance of Kenneth Branagh's seductive Iago, who overshadows a miscast Laurence Fishburne. Although almost any Shakespeare text needs to be cut for the screen, Parker seems to have gone farther than necessary, excising much of the rhetorical grandeur to achieve a more contemporary feel. He's also injected some non-Shakespearian erotic flashbacks, giving it the patina of a noirish thriller. As the passionate Moor at the heart of the play, Fishburne, self-possessed and almost aloof, seems to be a man utterly incapable of falling into a trap. For the celebrated French actress Iréne Jacob as Desdemona, it's the complexities of Shakespeare's tongue-knotting lines that prove to be a stumbling block. Branagh, who gives the film's best and most entertaining performance, has nonetheless been given too much space by Parker, dominating the film as a sort of campy puppet master more amused by his own considerable skill at manipulation than intent on the destruction of his superior officer. Above all, one misses a venomous undercurrent, a sense of the "motiveless malignancy" that Samuel Taylor Coleridge saw as the essence of Iago's evil.