Though purists may decry the number of textual excisions and accent-watchers balk at the mix of French, Italian, English and tidied-up Brooklyn on offer here, Parker's first feature is a highly engaging attempt at Shakespeare's most domestic tragedy. Set in various Italian locations, the film obeys the cardinal rule which helps Iago to ensnare the jealous Moor and allows us to forget much of the play's innate absurdity: speed in all things. Using the camera well to explore reactions from onlookers and the main participants, Parker allows Branagh to assume the ring-master role in what is the actor's finest screen performance to date: an Iago rooted in reality, torn and muddied by the art of warfare, but still determined to work his poisonous will; a villain inspired by sexual jealousy but also by a banal, inexplicable malice, superbly hinted at in several perky asides. Fishburne is exotic, proud, bald and more than usually violent. The flashbacks and bed-scenes work, and the idea of having Cassio (Nathaniel Parker) slip Othello his suicide weapon is typically intelligent. But most importantly, everyone gets better as the film progresses, especially Fishburne whose early reserve explodes into passion, violence and moving sorrow.
Cast and crew