Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Othello is the tragedy of Othello (here played by Welles), an accomplished general in Venice and a Moor who elopes with the beautiful Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier), much to the dismay of her father, Brabantio (Hilton Edwards). Othello's most trusted officer is Iago (Micheal MacLiammoir), but Othello does not realize that the seemingly honest Iago secretly despises him. Through cunning and manipulation, he convinces Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with another officer, Cassio (Michael Laurence).
For those looking for a faithful and complete adaptation of the Bard's work, look elsewhere. Whether by the haphazard nature of the filming or by Welles' artistic decisions, the movie, clocking in at little over 90 minutes in running time, omits much of the original text and condenses and/or rearranges a number of passages (most notably, Iago's "I hate the Moor" soliloquy is reduced to a one-sentence voiceover). Even less so than Roman Polanski's MacBeth, the focus is not on the acting and the language. Because the dialogue was dubbed in later, Welles stages many of the scenes where the lips of the actors are obscured and sometimes even their faces, so as to hide the effect, although the mismatch between lips and words is quite obvious a number of times.
Poor dubbing is not the only technical flaw in the film. The editing is all over the place at times, jarring and confusing. This is the restored version of the film from 1992, and some of the music and sound effects feel out of place. Plus, Welles, despite achieving a better makeup effect than any other actor in the role, is still quite clearly a white man in blackface.
Strictly speaking as a story told through visuals, Othello ranks among Welles's best work as a director, even if the movie itself isn't necessarily one of the better Shakespeare adaptations.