The scene between Emilia and Iago is removed

The challenge of adapting
a Shakespearean play to contemporary times is no small feat as narrative tweaks
and changes are needed to be made to ensure a compelling film for a modern
audience. Several adaptations of Shakespeare’s blood-ridden Othello have been
made, with big screen movies such as a 1951 drama film directed and produced by
Orson Welles, who also adapted and played the title role in the Shakespearean
play. In his 1995
film, Othello, British film director Oliver Parker took a
creative approach in adapting the play to fit modern times with a straight-ahead
style shot in many Italian locations.

The film is a fine adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, however,
some scenes were removed, but without any substantive loss to the story. A
minor scene between Emilia and Iago is removed in which Iago tells Emilia to
bring the moor’s handkerchief to him. Additional silent scenes are included
such as the passionate scenes between Othello and Desdemona, which are displayed
rather hotter than usual, directed with a purposeful soft edge to the film. Explicit
dreams in which Othello imagines Desdemona’s supposed affair with Cassio are also enough to garner an R rating to this dramatic and
romance-ridden genre. Nevertheless, Parker has also included some fine examples
of visual imagery and cinematographer David Johnson amplifies these scenes. For
example, Iago uses chess pieces to demonstrate his game plan; in anticipation
of his efforts to separate Othello from Desdemona with false evidence, he places
a white knight between the black king and the white queen, while later, when
the time has come to see his designs through to the end, he casts the last two
pieces into a pond.  This ominous image for the audience foreshadows the
final shots of the film, in which two bodies, those of Othello and Desdemona,
were given a burial at sea.  

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In terms of performance, this is a rich film indeed. All
the parts were enacted well with clear intentions and wrenching emotions. The
success of the film, however, lies chiefly in the hands of the leading
characters: Laurence Fishburne as Othello, and Kenneth Branagh as Iago. Oliver
Parker focuses intently on the fateful actions of the two principles.
Shaven-headed and bearded, covered with tattoos and jewelry, Fishburne delivers
a fierce and hard-set stance with meaningful emotions that contribute to the
realness of the movie. An important example of his work is in Act III, scene
iii; as Iago spurs up doubt and jealousy in Othello’s mind, Fishburne’s
expressions and tone of voice carry the audience through that complex mind,
showing how confidence and trust gave way to worry and apprehension. Branagh,
as played by Shakespeare’s most villainous character Iago, whose working on
instinct in the moment rather than calculated scheming, garnered many positive
reviews as Branagh was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild
Award for
his performance, in the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting
Role category. His performance is confidently sensational with soliloquies and
asides that are vital in engaging the audience. He
is a master puppeteer, with devilish plans that dominate the first three acts,
then he simply sits back and watches as his plans come to fruition. Irene
Jacob, who gave a moving performance as Desdemona seems unable to separate her
French accent with the Elizabethan dialogue but overall plays her character well, with a
compelling performance.

Generally, Oliver Parker’s adaptation of
Shakespeare seems to have garnered a favorable reaction from critics, especially
for Branagh’s Iago, while the public response was lukewarm. The reception of
this film lend out grossing about only $2.8 million in the Unites States on
its $11 million budget. However, acting from the lead characters: Fishburne and
Branagh were passionately received by audiences and do not detract from the
originality of the movie. The film’s visual components like set and costume
design, contributed to Desmond Crowe, Livia Borgognoni and Caroline Harris, as
well as production design by Tim Harvey created an eye-pleasing result despite
awkward management of scenes and a somewhat muted soundtrack throughout the
movie. Overall, the extra visual aspects of the film enhance certain story elements,
and Parker has done an adequate job in crafting a modern