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William Shakespeare: Othello (2004)

Michael Grandage , Ian McKellen , Trevor Nunn  |  NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Grandage, Ian McKellen, Clive Swift, Willard White, Sean Baker
  • Directors: Trevor Nunn
  • Writers: William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Greg Smith, Michael Darlow, Ralph Wilton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 2, 2004
  • Run Time: 205 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00063MC1Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,276 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "William Shakespeare: Othello" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Towering screen and stage legend Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings, X-Men) stars in this ferocious, deeply human and timeless production of William Shakespeare's classic tragedy from legendary director Trevor Nunn (Les Miserables) and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Noble Moroccan Othello finds his life with beautiful, fiercely loyal Desdemona thrown tragically out of balance when secretly jealous, scheming confidante Iago begins an insidious campaign of lies and treachery. Featuring agracious and dignified performance from celebrated operatic bass Willard White and a superb Imogen Stubbs as the tragic couple, this award-winning presentation is one of the controversial tale's most acclaimed and powerful interpretations to date.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but getting there February 1, 2005
I have never made up my mind if it is more painful to watch "Othello" or "King Lear." In both cases, you feel like leaping onto the stage and strangling the leading character for being so utterly stupid. It is the supreme test of any actor to make these men sympathetic enough to move an audience to tears. Once during a lecture, someone asked me for a fast distinction between comedy and tragedy and I came up with "Comedy is what happens when women are in charge, tragedy when men are." I do not think I have seen a really satisfactory performance of "Othello" (in which a good man in charge is taken over by an evil man). More often than not, Iago steals the show, mainly because he is having such a good time duping the entire cast right down to the last few minutes of Act V.

However, we now have an Image Entertainment DVD of a nearly complete "Othello" (ID2622RZDVD) shown on British television in 1990, based on a Royal Shakespeare production directed by Trevor Nunn. Now I do not know what Italian military uniforms looked like in about 1865, when this play seems to be set, but the ones you see are far too much like American Civil War garb. However, there is a point that helps us understand Iago to this "anything but the historical period setting and costuming" attitude toward staging classics nowadays.

Nunn was astute enough to cast an opera baritone, Willard White (whom you might have seen as a magnificent Porgy on an EMI video of the Gershwin work), in the title role. He is able to do with the great rolling iambic lines what another black actor found utterly beyond him in a film version not too long ago, and in the early part of the play he gives us a very likable Othello.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing February 6, 2005
I have only seen two other productions of Othello. One was an amateurish high-school like production staged as it would have been in Elizabethan times complete with Elizebethan sets and a second one was a production at my high-school set in what was either a modern day boot camp or Iraq with the sort of acting that should have been in the first production I saw. But this one takes the cake. The acting is amazing. Trevor Nunn has given us an amazing production as he has done so before with "Porgy and Bess", "The Merchant of Venice", and "Oklahoma" shattering all set stereotypes. What we get is a powerful production of Shakespeare's tale of jealousy. In short, it's a freakin' good show.

Willard White displays great magnitude as Othello. Imogen Stubbs, a.k.a. Mrs. Trevor Nunn, gives us a Desdemona totally fresh and free of all stereotypes. Zoe Wanamaker (otherwise known to younger audiences as Madame Hooch from the first Harry Potter movie) is an amazing Emilia. But the performance that steals the show is Ian McKellen as Iago. Sure he mumbles a lot but what a voice he has. What I especially love is how each monologue or soliloquy or aside is addressed to the camera as if we are part of the action. It helps to feed the tension onscreen. I also felt that the costumes were very Civil War-ish. If they were trying to set the show in the civil war, they forgot to get rid of their British accents. I don't know what it was. Despite these flaws, it was an amazing performance that is worthy of five stars.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Green Eyed Monster Strikes with Ferocity May 18, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Othello is a difficult production for me to watch at any time. Seeing the horrors of jealousy run amuck to the destruction of innocence is painful at the best of times. In the instance of this production it is even more painful because it is so well done.

The story of Othello is that of a Venetian general who marries a local daughter of a nobleman. The general happens to be black. In an effort to sabotage the general, Iago undermines the faith of the husband for his wife leading ultimately to the tragedy of her death. While Shakespeare gives motivations for his characters, interpretations and emphases tend to vary. Kenneth Brannagh's production of Othello emphasies Iago as a troublemake who likes to cause trouble simple for the sake of doing so. This production, with Ian McKellan in the role of Iago, puts more emphasis on his desire for revenge in reaction to a perceived slight. Both are accurate portrayals but the former seems to show more delight in "being bad" wheras the latter seems more inclined to "get even". Both are excellent and accurate but the emphasis in this film makes the heaviness of the theme that much more difficult to endure.

The role of Desdemona is portrayed in this version by Imogen Stubb and she is a delight to watch. She bring an alluring innocence to the role that makes her demise all that much more tragic. So too is the title role played admirably. The problem with Othello is that he is at heart and honorable man but lets his passions rule him and cause him to lash out with devatiging consequence.

This is a fine performance all around with a difficult play. If you can keep your anger at the antics of the characters in check, it is well worth the time.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too dark for a classroom! March 24, 2012
By Doc B
I do enjoy the acting in this one, especially that of the spirited Imogen Stubbs as Desdemona and the resonant Willard White as Othello. In addition, there are a few memorable faces: my 10th graders usually recognize Sir Ian McKellan as "Magneto" from the X-Men movies (and a few have recognized Zoe Wanamaker from a Harry Potter movie).

Unfortunately, this production is literally TOO DARK for a classroom. If you actually have a TV in your classroom, it may be just barely workable, but if you're like me and you only have the LCD projector and a DVD player, your students will NOT BE ABLE TO SEE. The LCD projector only projects images on the wall; my wall is not backlit like a TV or computer screen. Act I and much of Act V are nearly unwatchable for that reason. Movies do NOT hold students' attention unless they can SEE. In addition, the minimalist costumes and sets make it practically a black-and-white movie. There is virtually NO COLOR.

Another problem (I believe another reviewer mentioned it) is that Sir Ian McKellan mumbles a lot as Iago. Add not hearing to not seeing, and the students will quickly become restless. The students do enjoy Roderigo's temper tantrum at the end of Act I sc iii, but Iago responds with so much mumbling and smarmy physical contact that it kills any potential the scene might have had for them.

Some of the scenes are worth attempting to show the students, especially Cassio's drunk scene in Act II and Desdemona's convincing fall when she is "struck" by Othello in Act IV. If you can get your classroom VERY dark or have a rainy day, or skip past some of Iago's mumbling soliloquys, it is a good production.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A filmed play in a different setting
Obviously, in a historic play, moving the setting will make some things non sequitur. In this case, the uniforms seem like something from the civil war era when the plays original... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rigg Chicoye
2.0 out of 5 stars The Time Life Treatment
The first time I saw Ian McKellen was in a traveling stage production of Richard III (which would later be remade into a movie that would make the man famous for movie goers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tim Lieder
3.0 out of 5 stars Ian McKellen ruins completely a remarkably hideous movie
Ian McKellen does his ruining effect by being far too brilliant for this outstandingly ugly production, full of mediocre acting and amateurish direction. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Alexander Arsov
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor direction
I was very excited to get this DVD to use for a Shakespeare class I teach. It is difficult to find a production of Othello that is not rated R because so many directors focus on... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Shakespeare fan
4.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Othello
This review in on the 205 minutes Royal Shakespeare Company Production of Othello starring Ian McKellen as Iago. Read more
Published on November 8, 2010 by Andrew Raker
4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating version
Much of the cast is very good and I enjoyed McKellen as Iago - an interpretstion different from most others...... Read more
Published on February 27, 2010 by Peregrine Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare as it should be
Creative, Timeless, Moving. The greatest Shakespearian director of our day, Trevor Nun, has done it again.
I had my doubts. Read more
Published on February 15, 2010 by Ryan P. Foran
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad they filmed this stage version
Sir Ian McKellan is a perfectly villainous Iago, Imogen Stubbs is a feisty (for a change!) Desdemona. Read more
Published on April 12, 2009 by M. Harter
5.0 out of 5 stars othello classic
As wonderful a production of Othello as there can be found. Plus, it's shot as a stage production which gives it leverage as an educational tool.
Published on September 12, 2007 by T. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased Review?
I am a fan of Imogen Stubbs and, accordingly, cannot write an unbiased review.
Published on February 19, 2006 by george vw pope Jr.
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