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Othello

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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(Mar 12, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Set amid the racially charged politics of London's Metropolitan Police Force, Andrew Davies's deft and gripping adaptation of Othello achieves an ideal balance of realism, contemporary relevance, and respect for the rhythms of Shakespeare's play. John Othello is a black police officer who is named commissioner after he defuses a race riot. His friend and colleague Ben Jago (Shakespeare's Iago) is furious at being passed over for the top job, and he secretly begins a plan to destroy Othello by making him believe that his new wife is having an affair.

Eamonn Walker makes Othello's tragic fall believable and moving, but the story belongs, as it often does on stage, to the villain. Christopher Eccleston's Jago is a wonderfully complex creation, defined by his wickedness but as much a victim of it as any other character. Funny, tragic, and crackling with energy, this is an unmissable performance. Credit should also go to Davies for his script--which echoes Shakespeare's without ever quoting it directly--to a strong supporting cast, and to director Geoffrey Sax, who balances the film's realism with slightly stylized touches that give more dramatic punch to key scenes. Othello offers a daring new version of a familiar story, and it succeeds both as a powerful modern drama and as a testament to Shakespeare's insight into human weaknesses. --Simon Leake

From the Back Cover

Obsession, jealousy, betrayal. A powerful black man in a white society. Acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones's Diary, Moll Flanders, Pride and Prejudice) takes these themes from Shakespeare and reworks them into an achingly intense contemporary story set in present-day London. As racial tensions threaten to explode, political forces propel John Othello (EAMONN WALKER, Unbreakable, Oz) into a high-profile public role over the head of his best friend and mentor Ben Jago (CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON, Elizabeth, The Others). Seething with jealousy, Jago maintains a facade as the loyal confidant while seizing on Othello's obsessive love for his beautiful wife, Dessie (KEELEY HAWES, The Blond Bombshell, Wives and Daughters), as the path to his destruction. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE: production notes, cast filmographies and scene index.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Eamonn Walker, Christopher Eccleston, Keeley Hawes, Richard Coyle, Rachael Stirling
  • Directors: Geoffrey Sax
  • Writers: Andrew Davies, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Anne Pivcevic, Ian Strachan, Jo Wright, Julie Gardner, Michele Buck
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: March 12, 2002
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005YUND
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,863 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Othello" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John L Murphy TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 18, 2007
Format: DVD
I teach "Othello" in an intro to literature course for non-liberal arts majors; it's their only chance to study literature at my college, and I find this a well-balanced counterpart to the 1995 Oliver Parker-directed film dramatization starring Laurence Fishburne & Kenneth Branagh. My students tend to prefer the "original" with Shakespeare's language to this BBC-CBC production, but I like this for the energetic gallows humor it provides. While some of my students have seen "O," made around the same time as this Masterpiece Theatre version, this is more adult, and less teenaged in its appeal. It's grimmer than "O," and moves rapidly.

The performances of not only Eamonn Andrews and Christopher Eccleston (who I enjoyed so much in Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" in an earlier, equally unhinged role) deserve acclaim. Cass and Desi and Lulu (=Emilia) all do well in difficult scenes, and the conflation of the Rodrigo character into the officer pressured by Jago into recanting his testimony provides a challenging example of how a modern adaptation can alter the original plot and alter characters into this admittedly manic, compressed, and entertaining version. Issues of race, gender, class, and trust all are explored efficiently; how the storyline places Desi's earlier dalliances into her now-faithful relationship with Othello again moves the story into current sexual realism and cultural mores.

Still, even if "Othello" appears to be the play that replaces (as in my textbook anthology!) "Hamlet," it cannot be glossed or streamlined. It is a tale of unrelenting deceit and unforgiving revenge. Trendy topics aside, at its dark core, Othello remains a depressing play, and the ironies and sarcasms of Jago, as with Iago, can be disheartening as you see Desi and Othello trapped.
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Unlike many Shakespeare enthusiasts, I adore modern adaptations and staging of Shakespeare's works. One of the reasons his plays have endured is that they have a timeless quality that is understood generation after generation. His stories capture something essential about human nature that cannot be confined to a historical period.

Some modern versions of Shakespeare use original dialogue with updated settings, costumes, and character relationships. This sometimes works very well, as in Ethan Hawke's Hamlet or the Julie Taymor's Titus (my favorite). In this version of Othello, however, the dialogue has been modernized to match the setting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I saw it in a class on Shakespeare's Tragedies at Syracuse University which was taught by a reknowned Shakespeare scholar. This was her choice as the best film version of Othello to show us. Othello is a story which translates particularly well into a modern version because it deals with issues such as racism, jealousy, and insecurity that make it applicable to a variety of situations. The acting in this movie is excellent - very believable and powerful. I highly recommend this movie to anyone, whether or not you have previous experience with Othello.
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...and I think quite good, actually.

Don't expect Shakepeare's Othello and you won't be disappointed. This retelling of Othello dispenses with Shakepeare's poetry, replaces it with modern dialog and drops the story down into modern day London. This adaptation also uses the maybe too clever device of having Iago speak directly into the camera and letting the audience know what he's up to, a device lifted from BBC's political thriller, 'House of Cards.' If you're not a purist, it all works. While the Shakepearean language may be missing the core of the story, jealousy, obsession and power come through stunningly.
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I loved this "Othello" and as such, I highly reccommend it, for all that's worth. Especially if you are an English teacher looking for a successful and interesting transformation of Shakespeare's Othello into a contemporary context. This masterpiece theatre 2001 production is an excellent example of what is possible. Remember to look for the related Materpiece Theatre website resources that accompany the production.

This "Othello" has been translated into the modern language/ context of a London Met Police Department and you should be aware that this is not a direct "loyal" adaptation of Othello. It is a contemporary response to Shakespeare's "Othello" making several significant changes to the narrative detail whilst still maintaining thematic integrity. It has the potential to leave an audience divided over the ending and provoke much intelligent discussion in response. Whilst this "Othello" was made in the same year as "O", I personally believe that it leaves the Amercian film for dead. This film has a strong visual style and all the acting performances are strong. Especially Christopher Eccleston's Ben Jago with his manic asides directly to the camera which I personally really enjoyed.

Whether you watch for it pleasure or for study, this "Othello" deserves to be on your Shakespearean radar.
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I first saw this rendition of "Othello" over a year ago on PBS, and I was absolutely enthralled with it. Unlike other modern renditions of Shakespearian plays, this version replaces the iambic pentameter with a natural scripted dialogue without losing the meaning and power of Shakespeare's orginal writing. You will fall in love and emphathize with Walker's powerful portrayal of the ill-fated Othello, and you will scorn and shudder at Eccleston's perfectly manipulative Jago. This is by far my favorite version of Othello.
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