OTHELLO IN DRAMA AND IN FILM AS A LITERARY ADAPTAT
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OTHELLO IN DRAMA AND IN FILM AS A LITERARY ADAPTATION
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Department of American Culture and Literature
Othello is one of the most famous plays of Shakespeare, which has been filmed many times, notably by Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier in 1964. In 1997 it was filmed once again by Oliver Parker, with Kenneth Branagh and Laurence Fishburne in the title roles. This paper aims to analyse this last adaptation, looking in particular at why it was filmed, and how it was marketed to modern audiences.
Parker chose to film Othello to reintroduce Shakespeare\'s play to a new generation of young audiences. As with many of his plays, Othello has certain characters displaying specific traits - revenge, lust, the struggle for power - which can affect anyone, regardless of whether they find his language difficult to understand or not. Shakespeare is able to reflect the extreme passions of human beings, as well as their faults. For example: Othello is naïve and easily directed by Iago. Iago is ambitious and evil; he does everything he can for his own benefit. Othello is easily deceived. He becomes the victim of his naivete and his life end tragically as he kills Desdemona.
Although the plots and the themes of Othello are the same in the play and in Parker\'s film version, they are different in structure. To a large extent the film is visual in its appeal, with the use of expensive sets and costumes, slow camera angles, and a style calculated to focus the audience\'s attention on the two stars Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh. Moreover Parker adds material that was not in the original play, in the interests of comprehension. For example; the handkerchief scene is very important for the development of the play, as it is the motivation that causes Othello to suspect Desdemona’s loyalty towards him. However, in the play this scene’s importance is not as clear as it is in the film. In the film Emilia finds Desdemona’s handkerchief and it becomes the trick that Iago uses against Othello, by saying that Cassio has the handkerchief. So Iago is shown to be a slanderer, who claims falsely that Desdemona has committed adultery with Cassio. This scene is rendered deliberately clearer. There are also some additions to draw the interest of the audience and reflect the characterization better. For example in the play the scene where the making love of Othello and Desdemona is not shown. In the film Parker adds a sex scene to affect the audience and to reflect the love theme and the emotions of the characters. There is also another additional scene, where Othello imagines Desdemona in bed with Cassio, as Iago tells lies about Desdemona. This scene does not exist in the play; but exists in the film because the director wants to reveal Othello\'s feelings more clearly. In this way his lack of trust in Desdemona and his naïvete are made clearer. Another additional scene shows Iago making love to Emilia after she has given the handkerchief to Iago. This helps to underline Iago (Kenneth Branagh) as a tricky and evil figure, who will even cheat upon his wife to achieve his evil intentions. Such additions help the audience to gain a better understanding of the play and its characters.
Parker\'s camera technique is very important in demonstrating the themes of the play. For example; when Iago says, “I hate the moor” he looks at the camera directly, as if he was sharing his feelings directly with the audience. We can see what a trickster - and an evil trickster at that - he is. When Emilia finds the handkerchief there is a close-up on the handkerchief, demonstrating its importance to the resolution of the plot. Parker makes extensive use of close-ups, to help the audience identify with the characters. While Desdemona (Irene Jacob) and Othello (Laurence Fishburne) are making love, their clasped hands are shown in close-up to indicate their love for one another.
For a modern version of Othello to succeed in the cinema, it must be packaged carefully. A glance at the original poster for the film shows that
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Othello, Emilia, Iago, Michael Cassio, Desdemona, Laurence Fishburne, Otello, BBC Television Shakespeare, Bianca, Roderigo
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