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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but getting there
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...
Published on February 1, 2005 by F. Behrens

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too dark for a classroom!
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...
Published on March 24, 2012 by Doc B


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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but getting there, February 1, 2005
This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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.

His evil genius, Iago, is played by Ian McKellen as all soldier, standing at strict attention at times even when addressing the audience. Here the blue Union uniform looks just right for a man who will use any "good cause" to conceal his villainy. Unhappily, though, he often lapses into whispers and mutterings that are simply unintelligible-and that too seems to be a sure sign of recent film making.

Nunn has given Imogen Stubbs all the right moves for Desdemona; but I find her voice a little squeaky and her physical appearance a little too girlish to bear the weight of the role. Yes, she is very good but somehow I found her not right. Perhaps you will disagree entirely.

Clive Swift (from "Keeping Up Appearances") is directed to shout far too much as Desdemona's father, while Michael Grandage as the idiot Roderigo is made to fall onto the floor like a spoiled brat (which he is) in a temper tantrum (which looks absurd). The Cassio (Sean Baker) is adequate, the Bianca (Marsha A. Hunt) amateurish. On the other hand, Zoe Wanamaker makes a superb Emilia, and Nunn has found some interesting aspects of her relationship with her "honest" husband, Iago.

The only lines I noticed omitted are most of those between Cassio and the clown, here a silly solider, in a scene that is almost always entirely cut. The pacing is at times far too slow-the video runs 205 minutes-but you really must see this production many times for the great acting of White and McKellen. English and Drama Departments, take note.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, February 6, 2005
By 
M. G ORELL (RANDOLPH, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too dark for a classroom!, March 24, 2012
This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Othello, November 8, 2010
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
This review in on the 205 minutes Royal Shakespeare Company Production of Othello starring Ian McKellen as Iago.

Film Setting:
While it is difficult to gage the precise time setting of the film, one is led to believe based upon the dress of the characters that it occurs in the mid to late 1800s since characters, such as Othello, wear Civil War era military uniforms.

Drawing Parallels:
The play is a stage production similar to A&E's production of Romeo and Juliet, with the exception that some lines (but not many) are cut from this Othello production. Film is really dark (poor lighting). [Therefore, I had to raise the lighting setting on my DVD portable DVD player in order to clearly see and interpret the facial expressions of the characters.]

Some Interesting Changes/Interpretations:
Cassio gives Desdemona his officer's coat to wear in 2.1. When Othello arrives, he sees Desdemona wearing Cassio's coat. [While Othello does not say anything about this, the film viewer may interpret this action as one piece of circumstantial evidence that might lead Othello to believe something sexual is going on between the two.]

In 2.3., Iago spikes the wine with some stronger alcoholic beverage. This helps to explain the inconsistency within the play of how Cassio could have become so intoxicated with so little to drink.

FILM'S ENDING:
Film ends with two images that rotate back and forth: The first is Iago's face as he (seemingly) views the dead bodies of Othello and Desdemona lying on the bed. The second is Othello and Desdemona lying on the bed, dead, Othello's arm around Desdemona's waist.

The very final shot before the background turns completely black is one of Iago's face, seemingly unrepentant despite all the pain and suffering he had caused due to his plots and scheming.

MY RATING:
The production is a bit more stage-like than I would have liked. Also, the quality of the DVD is a bit poor and may require you to change the color settings on your TV. Overall, however, the film is quite good. Ian McKellen is a far better Iago in my opinion than Lawrence Oliver or Kenneth Branagh.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Time Life Treatment, July 18, 2013
This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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. In the play, McKellen was brilliant and hilarious as Richard. Sadly everyone else in the play was tedious and looked lost. It might as well have been a one man show with a stage hand reading off a teleprompter for all other roles. Actually that would have been better.

This DVD reminds me of that tedious play. Only it's worse because it's done in that BBC video format whereby everyone is so eager to say all the lines as if they are sacred writ that most of them miss the point. The BBC made these plays for every Shakespeare play and inevitably every single Shakespeare play is rendered lifeless and dead on arrival. It's like everyone is so mesmerized that they are reciting Shakespeare that they forgot that they were actors in a play - a play that is meant to entertain people.

I can't completely blame the actors. Othello and Desdemona do have some moments. However, the director must have insisted that everyone WHISPER their lines but in a very slow and deliberate way. One hopes that the director is at fault since the thought that the actors decided to render Shakespeare so tedious is too depressing to contemplate. At very least the staging is created solely to give everyone a close-up as they are looking in the other direction. The costumes are uniformly white and the lighting must have come from flashlights. The set is uniformly gray and at many points in the play someone decided that crickets were the best possible background noise.

Crickets.

Do they not know that Crickets are the universal sign of a boring play? Or did they know it and decided not to care too much since they knew that this thing would be purchased by high school English teachers seeking to make their students hate Othello?

Regardless, this is a tedious staging of a great play. Don't trust Ian McKellen's participation. He's probably done a lot of things for money that he's not proud of.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare as it should be, February 15, 2010
By 
Ryan P. Foran (Greenville, South Carolina United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
Creative, Timeless, Moving. The greatest Shakespearian director of our day, Trevor Nun, has done it again.
I had my doubts.
Usually when I watch a production of Othello, I just know that the whole "deception" of Othello will seem pretty unbelievable at worst and a real stretch at best leaving Othello looking like a real chump; I know that Desdemona will be such an angelic, innocent, boring, flat character that I really won't CARE that she gets killed. I just know these things and I just deal with it and hope that my favorite scenes and monologues will come out OK.
NO LONGER. Those two common weaknesses are the STRENGTHS of this production. Willard White's Othello is brought down as a truly sympathetic and tragic character like never before, while Desdemona charms us from the first and establishes herself as a VERY likable Character. Iago here is played with all the charm and honesty that Sir Ian McKellen can muster, making him all the more SATANIC.
All of these factors go to make the final Tragic scene what it should be: Almost unbearable to watch.
This is the Bard at its absolute best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars othello classic, September 13, 2007
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor direction, November 28, 2012
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
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 the sex between Othello and Desdemona to engage audiences. So I was hoping to see a version that focused more on Iago's evil manipulative schemes. However, I was quite disappointed by the performances, which were either too subtle or too over the top throughout. Ian McKellen's performance was lacking, but I feel that is due in part to the awful direction by Trevor Nunn. Othello is one of the most gripping stories as we are exposed to the depth of love, hate, jealously and fear that we all carry within us, yet this particular production was so immensly boring. I will not use it again to teach Othello in my classroom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating version, February 27, 2010
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This review is from: William Shakespeare: Othello (DVD)
Much of the cast is very good and I enjoyed McKellen as Iago - an interpretstion different from most others......I am not sure how well the civil war setting works - interesting though
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William Shakespeare: Othello
William Shakespeare: Othello by Trevor Nunn (DVD - 2004)
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