Othello (1952)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragedy, Period Film  |   Release Date - Nov 29, 1951 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy, Morocco  |  
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Beset by financial problems, Orson Welles' 1952 production of Shakespeare's play took nearly four years to complete. Unable to afford adequate sound equipment, Welles was forced to post-synchronize the dialogue (as he had with Macbeth), but the dubbing is disconcertingly haphazard. Many of the actors were unavailable to dub their parts, so Welles himself voiced their characters. An ever-changing cast (many could not commit to the on again/off again production) further inhibited Welles' ability to pull together a cohesive and coherent film. Lastly, by omitting reams of material, inserting scenes of his own (such as the funeral procession that bookends the film), and rearranging several others, the 91-minute film has an assertively Wellesian stamp on it. Somehow, despite these problems, Welles put together a visually exciting accompaniment to the aural delight of Shakespeare's words. The black-and-white cinematography is sterling, while the aggressively angular shots keep the audience a little off-balance throughout. By dwelling on ceremony and procession, Welles accentuates the conflicts that bedevil Othello, a character who feels socially inferior and unworthy of Desdemona's love. Welles is a capable Shakespearean actor, though his penchant for grand theatrical gestures is occasionally misplaced in the more intimate medium of film. Othello won the Palme d'Or at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.