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  • Over the years, while admiring the craftsmanship inherent in "Othello," I had always been bothered by one question. I'd studied the play in school, of course (seems to have been mandatory in my day), and I'd seen the usual versions (Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, etc.), yet always this one nagging question kept gnawing at me, kept me from fully appreciating this play . ..

    How in hell could Othello ever let himself be taken in by so obvious a viper as Iago?

    Enter the BBC with its production of "William Shakespeare's Othello," with a particularly brilliant bit of casting: Bob Hoskins as Iago. Roly-poly, giggling, everybody's friend and more than a bit of a buffoon, to boot -- until, that is, he's by himself and you suddenly understand the true nature of evil.

    And suddenly, I gained a true appreciation of the play. Simply because some casting director stretched himself (or herself) beyond the tried-and-true glowering serpentine approaches (a la Frank Finlayson in the Olivier production, etc.) which had been the norm.

    It also helps, of course, that Hoskins is one truly fine actor.
  • A most excellent production of one of the Bard's more difficult plays mainly because of the controversy in these politically correct times of a white actor blacking up to play the lead. But since Othello is a Moor and thus a Mediterranean type he does not have to be portrayed as an African. Remember the Moors ruled Spain for a long time until expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella so Othello does not have to be any darker, than a Spaniard. Anthony Hopkins gives a masterful performance as the Moor, one of the best I have seen comparable only with Placido Domingo in the opera Otello. His gradual change of character from gentle loving husband to insane jealousy is extremely well done and his way with the verse gives full meaning to Shakespeare's words. He is well supported by the cast of less well known stage actors. For me the only jarring note was Bob Hoskins portrayal of Iago, so obviously a nasty piece of work that one wonders how Othello would be taken in by such an overt villain. His giggling also becomes irritating, definitely not the best Iago I have seen. One thing is sure, this production emphasises what a great Shakespearean actor the stage lost when Hopkins left for Hollywood. Had he remained in the theatre he would easily have outstripped Richard Burton's reputation and maybe even Olivier's. Anyone who values real Shakespearean acting should not miss this production.
  • Suffice it to say, I totally disagree with the negative comments currently on this site about this performance. All the performers in this BBC production, directed by the brilliant Shakespeare director Jonathan Miller, are superb. The fact that Anthony Hopkins is not literally a black man should be irrelevant. Obviously, many white men have successfully performed the title role in this play since it was first written by Shakespeare and performed in Elizabethan England. Need I mentioned Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier among many many others? Hopkins is wonderful in the role, as is Bob Hoskins as Othello's nemesis Iago. I have seen many performances of this play, live and on film, and this remains one of my favorites.
  • I believe it was Laurence Olivier who theorized that William Shakespeare and his lead actor Richard Burbage were bending elbows one night when Burbage drunkenly taunted, "I can play any role you can write." And Shakespeare said, "Oh yeah?" and wrote Othello.

    The play is indeed entitled "Othello," but the focus is almost always stolen by the villain. Bob Hoskins here is a brilliant Iago, character motivations for once crystal clear, his accent emphasizing class conflict, his ready laughter only occasionally too much. You will not find a better Iago anywhere.

    We know that James Earl Jones was the first choice to star in this production, and that British Equity threatened to close down not just the one show but the whole BBC Shakespeare series if a single non-British actor was hired.

    However, when James Earl Jones played Othello on Broadway, it was common wisdom that Christopher Plummer's Iago stole the show from him. So we shouldn't fantasize too much that Jones's presence here might have changed everything.

    Anthony Hopkins begins as a very confident character. However it is not possible to believe his backstory, that recitation of bravery and romance that wins Desdemona's heart. Hopkins doesn't look like a general, just like an earnest actor trying to solve problems. He hits a sweet spot just after Iago's first insinuations, when Desdemona appears and charms him all over again. After that, the performance goes downhill, and some of his choices undermine the later scenes.

    Is it miscasting, or just a play where the gargantuan scale of emotions defies reduction to television scale? The Welles and Olivier productions were designed for large screens, not a small one.

    The much-loved Penelope Wilton here is the most "English" Desdemona I've ever seen. She does everything right, but there's nothing remotely Mediterranean about this daughter of Venice. Rosemary Leach gives the performance of her career as Emilia, honest and vigorous without a cliché in sight. The rest of the cast is excellent, with an overall energy level higher than the norm in this series.

    Jonathan Miller's direction concentrates on the domestic side of the drama, downplaying the public aspects, and bringing his background as a neurologist to the various varieties of mental illness on display. The visuals are once again Old Masters, with some lovely Georges de la Tour effects over candle-lit dinner.

    However the dramatic heights are not successfully stormed. If you want to see Othello with the thunder Shakespeare implied, go instead to Verdi's opera "Otello," which concentrates on the core of the conflict and distills sheer dynamite. Placido Domingo can be fairly stolid and workmanlike in the part, so I'd recommend you track down a black and white Italian TV production starring Mario del Monaco for maximum impact. Here is the heroic "punch in the stomach" Othello you've always dreamed about.
  • alainenglish15 February 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    At 205 minutes, this adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello" is no TV dinner but demands attention as it is a complex tale of jealousy, intrigue and tragedy.

    Returning from war, Othello (Anthony Hopkins, in a role originally intended for James Earl Jones) wins the respect of the people and marries his beloved Desdemona (Penelope Wilton). But the scheming of his false friend Iago (Bob Hoskins) threatens all he has fought for...

    Bob Hoskins is an excellent Iago, played so much as the Devil Incarnate but as a cunning, almost practical opportunist pulling everyone's strings for his own gain. David Yelland and Anthony Pedley are fine as his dupes Cassio and Roderigo, and Penelope Wilton as serene and innocent as Desdemona.

    I profoundly disagree with British Equity not allowing James Earl Jones to take the role of Othello, an idiotic decision at the time that would probably not happen now.

    But this takes nothing away from Anthony Hopkins, at least ten years before his star-making turn in "Silence of the Lambs" and giving Othello the full breadth of nobility, vicious jealousy and eventually overpowering guilt. It's a great performance.

    Some of the performances are muffled by the poor volume levels on the DVDs, and many good lines and speeches lose some of their power as a result.

    Nevertheless, despite it's length, this is still great Shakespeare.
  • garymink19 December 1999
    This is one of my favorite pieces of Shakespeare on film or video. Both Anthony Hopkins and Bob Hoskins give thrilling performances. The quiet subtlety of Hopkins interpretation sets the viewer up for a shock when Othello's enormous brutality is revealed. Bob Hoskins is alternately horrifying and loveable. His frequent giggling amuses, and then terrifies. Penelope Hilton's work as Desdemona is equally impressive to that of Hopkins and Hoskins. However, I think in casting her role older than usual, some of the character's innocence is lost. Technically, the lighting and camera work are beautifully handled. Jonathan Miller's direction is sensitive and incisive, and lovingly crafted.
  • mhk1126 December 2012
    This is an impressive and unrelievedly grim production that omits most of the light-hearted bits of Shakespeare's play -- light-hearted bits that are few and brief in any event.

    Because the acting by Penelope Wilton is so excellent, we forget that she is not quite young enough and not quite attractive enough to be fully suitable for the role of Desdemona. Wilton vividly conveys the bewilderment and desolation that Desdemona experiences as her beloved husband turns against her.

    Bob Hoskins is superb as Iago. He could have reined in his giggling at times, especially in the first Act, but his delivery of his lines is impeccably well-judged. Precisely because Iago as played by Hoskins is highly likable on a superficial level, his merciless and devious psychopathy is truly chilling. Hoskins displays his skill as an actor when he adopts an upper-crust accent in his summoning of Brabantio and in his gloating over the supine Othello. He thereby signals one of the motivations behind Iago's crimes (without obscuring the fact that the crimes are driven partly by a love of evil for its own sake).

    Particularly admirable is the ability of Hoskins to articulate his soliloquies in a manner whereby he appears to be addressing himself. Hoskins as Iago appears to be engaged in introspection rather than in recitation to an audience. In that respect, his performance clearly surpasses the performance of Derek Jacobi in the eponymous role in "Hamlet." Jacobi is always patently addressing an audience as he deliver Hamlet's intensely inward-looking soliloquies. Hoskins commendably avoids such a shortcoming.

    Anthony Hopkins is not quite as successful in the role of Othello, but his performance is generally very good. He overacts rather irksomely at a few junctures, and he looks like a slightly pudgy actor rather than a rugged soldier. Nonetheless, he delivers most of his lines well. His slapping of Desdemona is jolting, and his final speech is both poignant and devastating.

    Most of the supporting actors are fine. David Yelland is good in the difficult role of Cassio, and Anthony Pedley gives a splendid performance as the foppish Roderigo. Best of all is Rosemary Leach with a riveting performance as Emilia. (Because her performance is so good, however, it highlights one of the problematic features of Shakespeare's play: namely, the implausibility of the fact that Emilia waits until the end to disclose why Desdemona's handkerchief has gone missing.)
  • There is controversy here about the performances of Hopkins and Hoskins as the two major protagonists, and controversy about the nature of the production.

    That there is controversy is understandable - it's a very schizophrenic production, careful and understated and clipped and British for the most part, excellently acted by a tasteful cast, Penelope Wilton and Rosemary Leach outstanding. Yet the two principals are given free rein.

    Hoskins' Iago is the more successful of the two, scintillating in monologue, focusing on the evil of the character, trying to convey his plausibility via his rough charm. Hard to imagine the stiff-upper- lip types of Jonathan Miller's Venice being taken in by such a fellow, entertain them though he might.

    But there is more than one letter's difference between Hoskins and Hopkins. Hopkins' performance is, as some of the reviewers have pointed out, as ripe a piece of eye-rolling ham as one is likely to see. Despite other reviewers' valiant attempts, it is really not a defensible performance, rising so rapidly from suave control to chewing the scenery, persuaded far too easily by an Iago who is obviously on the make.

    The exaggerations help provide a context for his tense scenes with Desdemona - we certainly know how much he is holding back. The power of the moment when he slaps her is impressive. But when he lets rip, the acting style gets closer to Chongo out of the Banana Splits than any more accomplished thespian.

    The effect is not at all helped by Hopkins sporting the most extraordinary pair of trousers I have ever seen, designed by Richard Hughes. The bizarre codpiece looks like Hopkins has had a painful accident with a stapler, and his stature is seriously compromised by odd curving stripes down the legs. This produces a number of odd and unintentionally humorous effects, most awfully during Emilia's affecting death scene, where Hopkins, standing behind the bed as a witness, appears to have little tiny legs, like Toulouse-Lautrec.

    Either Miller could not control Hopkins, or gave him his head. It doesn't matter which - the result is an unsatisfactory mishmash, neither one thing nor the other.
  • qaoslover18 February 2007
    I read the previous unflattering review and couldn't believe it! So often Shakespeare contains such a morass of preconceived notions and line readings that it becomes a play containing characters and plot no longer,but a contest- delivering 'Ye Old English' lines in a pompous overblown manner. I ran across this on cable while switching channels and was absolutely glued to the screen. Anthony Hopkins' performance (despite the alleged 'make-up' which I honestly didn't notice) was very good, and Bob Hoskins' interpretation of Diago was absolutely ingenious. As a general rule I am not overly fond of Shakespearian drama, so for me to become absolutely mesmerized by it the performances not only had to be original, it had to be credible. You may not like this version if you suffer from puerile preconceived notions on how Shakespeare 'must' be played, but if you want to see a good play that just happens to be Shakespeare, I highly recommend it!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    To watch Othello after Romeo and Juliet is a sort of provocation, a way to provoke reflection and illumination. From the hardly pubertal lovers we shift to adults that do not seem to be in any way saner than the pubertal kids. Their difference is the way they are entangled in ambition, jealousy and hatred from other adults and from themselves, destroying their love and its beauty..

    Othello, the Moor, is a general for the Republic of Venice stationed in Cyprus and defending the island against the constant pressure from the Turks. He has an ensign who is the most evil person you can imagine, and a lieutenant who is the most sensitive person you can imagine. Iago is the first one and Cassio is the second. A pair that is clearly set up as the two perfect antagonistic characters with one being the predator and the other the pray, in that order.

    The objective of Iago is to become the lieutenant at first and then the general himself if possible. He uses all kinds of plotting devices and he succeeds marvelously: planting jealousy in Othello's heart about Desdemona and Cassio gives him a first victory against Cassio who is eliminated from his lieutenant position and replaced by Iago, but the Duke a Venice arrives with orders from the Senate: Othello is to go back to Venice and Cassio is to take his place in Cyprus. A full defeat for Iago.

    Then Iago speeds up the machine to eliminate Cassio by having him killed or at least incapacitated, and by heating the cauldron of Othello's jealousy till it may explode, and explode it does. We all know what's next. Othello tries to choke and strangle Desdemona and nearly succeeds but before dying she speaks a few words to her chambermaid, Iago's wife.

    The last scene is Shakespearean to the utmost. Iago manages to kill his wife, after being arrested, restrained, forced to hear his wife's confession and accusation, but thus revealing he is the one who plotted the whole thing. Cassio is brought in carried by two people and he will be the next military general of Cyprus. Then two letters are brought that were found on the body of Roderigo, the man Iago had used to assault Cassio, a man he had killed for him not to speak after his failure. The two letters reveal the role of Iago in the plot. The play closes on the squaring of the dead victims with the suicide of Othello on the body of his wife. That's the whole play in one pattern: two women dead, two men dead, but on the stage only the two women and Othello. Four, the symbol of the crucifixion containing three the Shakespearean symbol of disaster and disorder, that can be expanded to five with Cassio on the stage severely incapacitated by the assault he was the victim of. And we could also expand these four on the stage to five with Iago and that would bring three men, the main cause of disaster (one restrained, one wounded, one dead), and two women, the main victims of that disaster.

    Othello has expressed that pattern and the doom that was coming when he said in the second scene of the fifth act: OTHELLO: If she come in, she'll sure speak to my wife: My wife! my wife! what wife? I have no wife. O insupportable! O heavy hour! Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe Should yawn at alteration. With an expansion: "my wife" (neutral): "my wife, my wife" an even pair, "what wife!" third element, disorder. "I have no wife" final negation answering the third element, expanded to a diabolical five by the neutral initial element. Same structure with "a huge eclipse" (expanded element, rather neutral) "of sun and moon" (even pair) "the affrighted globe" (third expanded element, disturbed) "yawn at alteration" (fifth element, echo of the first one expanded by a verb expressing horror, fright, awe, etc). Three expanded, disorder, and two even in the center or nearly.

    And the same architecture is used in the concluding remark by Othello after stabbing himself with his dagger and before dying: OTHELLO: I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.. First a transitively symmetrical couple "I kiss'd thee" "I kill'd thee", then a disturbing inversion of that transitive symmetry into specular symmetry "killing myself" that disturbs the preceding pair, a disturbance that is amplified by "to die upon" to end up with the fifth element which is the second element of the second pair that is specularly symmetrical to the first one, a second pair that loses the transitive syntactic symmetry of the first pair. Perfect disorder in a regular architecture.

    This great art is at the service of a phenomenally sinister drama or tragedy that expounds the irresponsibility of people one to the other and also one to oneself. Their love is rotten by their jealousy. Their value is rotten by their sensitiveness. Human and social peace is rotten by the desire of some to do evil onto others for their sole profit. The welfare of other people and oneself is rotten by the ambition of one who cannot dream himself at a deserved place and wants to be in the place of one's higher-ups. It definitely sounds like pure democratic multiparty politics. Who is the ass and who is the Dumbo? Free for you to choose, but both are dingo Goofy-goofs. But I must admit Anthony Hopkins in Othello is outstandingly provocative. Othello was the role Hopkins always wanted to play. But Hopkins is the actor Shakespeare had dreamed of (being?) all his life.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
  • 'Othello', regardless of any criticisms of considered implausibility (such as for some how easily Iago is believed by Othello and how long it takes for Emilia to come forward) and political incorrectness, is nonetheless one of my most fondly regarded Shakespeare plays. Not just the masterful language, with some of Shakespeare's most famous lines that have true intensity and poetic meaning, but also the dramatic conflict, both darkly intense and poignant, and one of his most interesting characters in the evil incarnate Iago (Othello too is one of his more interesting titular characters).

    Anybody who has not seen or heard Verdi's opera 'Otello', one of his last but also one of his greatest, should definitely consider doing so. Actually like it even more than the play itself, with the dramatic conflict almost searing, especially in the relationship between Othello and Iago, and Iago is even more evil particularly in a big scene where he denounces God and everything. Enough of that, as that is not under review but more an interesting side-note (or at least an attempt at one). This production is a worthwhile one and anybody wanting to see as many Shakespeare productions available as possible should give it a go. As should those wanting to see every production of 'Othello' and the whole BBC Television Shakespeare series, featuring productions of all of his plays, some productions are better than others but they are all worth at least a one-time watch and the series overall is fascinating.

    Personally do think that this 'Othello' is in the lower half of the series. Not because it is bad, far from it, don't consider any of the productions unwatchable. But it is more of a mix than other productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare series of things that were done very well and others that could have been done better, and was expecting more to it.

    It's most of the cast that make this 'Othello' worth watching. Notably Bob Hoskins, whose Iago is a wonderfully uneasy mix of wickedly humorous and chillingly malevolent, even if the giggling did annoy a bit. Actually do think as well that his deceit is easy to buy with him appearing in public as someone who is good company, has a sense of humour and is seemingly truthful and then when alone and his intentions and plans are made clear (which the production makes crystal clear without being overt) one sees how much of a snake he really is. Rosemary Leach also stands out as a loyal but also at times shrewd Emilia. Penelope Wilton's Desdemona is poignant and noble, actually found myself not caring too awfully about her being too old. David Yelland and Anthony Pedley are strong as Cassio and Rodrigo.

    Jonathan Miller directs tastefully and carefully, with a nice job done bringing out the character traits and the character relationships. Othello and Iago's is crucial to work and mostly it's dynamite, though Hoskins deserves much of the credit for this. He does do well at times in building upon the play's strengths, there are intense moments and the latter stages of the last act are movingly handled. Desdemona and Emilia's is also very well done, as is Iago's dominance over Rodrigo. Shakespeare's prose flows beautifully and equally as much in the delivery. The interiors are quite nice if simple, and the same goes for the camera work.

    However, did find Anthony Hopkins' Othello inconsistent. At times he is very good, particularly good was his final speech which was very powerful. He also works very well in his scenes with Hoskins, until he becomes convinced of the unfaithfulness and that's when the hamminess becomes more apparent. The more passionate, raging scenes didn't convince as much, found him too histrionic and verging on insanity. That's why his later moments with Desdemona don't work, where everything else going on and how it was done feeling subdued in comparison. Miller does do well in enough aspects of the staging, but there were times where it felt like he was too careful and safe, the penultimate act for example when the tension should increasingly build could have done with more of that tension and more of it building. Some scenes lack oomph and, while it is laudable that the play was treated with respect, Miller could have afforded to take more risks and do things new.

    The BBC Television Shakespeare series' budgets were not high and one does see in more productions than others obvious limitations. 'Othello' to me is one of the more particularly under-budgeted productions. There is a drab look, the lighting is sometimes too dark, other productions in the series did better at showing authenticity and the costumes and make-up are at best uninspired. Othello's looked both bizarre and ugly.

    On the whole, to be seen mainly for 'Othello' and Shakespeare completests, and there are a good deal of impressive things, but uneven. 6/10
  • While I agree with a lot of the other reviewers that Anthony Hopkins is a fairly disappointing Othello, Bob Hoskins as Iago is nothing short of spectacular. In every scene he's funny, charismatic, and terrifyingly evil, all at the same time. Iago is a man you can't help but admire, always in control and supremely confident in his abilities even when those around him just see a lovable underling. In the final scenes when the mask is off he becomes even more effective, his glaring hatred seeming to shoot out of his eyes like a deadly laser beam. This is Shakespeare's most evil villain, and the most unconquerable and undefeated. ("I bleed, sir. But not killed!")

    Meanwhile poor Hopkins is struggling to seem menacing, but his chubby body and pale complexion make him look more ridiculous than anything else. He has a cultured voice and reads the lines beautifully, but whenever he has to show passion or emotion he just starts shouting and waving his arms wildly, looking more like the Wolf Man than the Moor of Venice. It doesn't help matters that the lady playing Desdemona is more of a stately spinster than nubile ingenue. Personally, I always pictured Audrey Hepburn as the ultimate Desdemona!

    One final note: I've never heard of Anthony Pedley, but I really loved how he played poor Rodrigo, a guy who just never has a chance. This is the one character closest to real life, and he's never just a clown even in his most helpless moments. I love how he dies, denouncing Iago and seeing the truth at last.

    Poor Othello, but still a great cast and a great play!
  • Anthony Hopkins is a horrendous over-actor at the best of times but he out does even Richard Burton in this one. People who feel this is a 'good' version of Othello have likely never read Shakespeare nor seen any of his plays performed live. This is version is a travesty for one obvious reason: Anthony Hopkins. Quite simply this TV version of Othello is ridiculous. First of all, anyone who looks at Anthony Hopkins with the "black face" make-up (he is supposed to be a Moor not a Chris Rock joke from "Bamboozled") and doesn't burst out laughing is either blind or well... one of the people Chris Rock makes fun of. Secondly, Anthony Hopkins plays Othello like a spastic, grunting ape-man. Frankly, his Othello is embarrassingly awful. If they had revoked his union card after this it could have saved the world from a lot of painfully bad cinema. Avoid this stinker like you would a Korean Nori-Bang toilet.
  • Even if this film does not meet expectations of what 'Othello' should be, keep in mind that it is a BBC production, and that even though some of the production values are not up to scratch, it follows Shakespeare's original script. Anyone looking to study Othello for any purposes should not give this one a miss. Despite mixed reviews on the acting by Hopkins and Hoskins, we must respect the fact that when an actor plays a role in a Shakespeare play, they will play that character however they see fit. Lawrence Oliver, for example, in a 1938 stage production, played Iago in a very homosexual manner, while Kenneth Branagh, in Parker's 1995 adaptation, shows Iago as a malicious psychopath. So when you think that Hopkins doesn't live up to his reputation in portraying Othello, or Hoskins plays the part like a gnome on speed, just remember that they are professionals who play the part how they see fit.
  • Othello is a generally very goood play and this TV movie based on the play is good,but with some problems.Sets and costumes are good ,except for Othello,but the lightning is too dark at some points.Off the three big roles, Bob Hoskins as Iago and Penelope Wilton as Desdemona fare the best,even though Iago's giggling is annoying .Othello got a bit too hammy and weird when he is convinced that Desdemona is unfaithfull.The final scene is touching,but ruined by Iago's giggling.At almost 3 and a half hours,this is a very long movie,so have patience watching it.Generally good Othello,but could have been better.6/10
  • tsf-196221 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    I have never watched this movie in its entirety, but I had to sit through a big chunk of it in my Shakespeare class in college and I hope I never have to see it again. This is the kind of production that turns people off to Shakespeare for life. Anthony Hopkins is a great actor, but he gave the worse acting performance in the history of the art as Othello; he wasn't helped any by the horrific hair and make-up job that made him look like a Klingon werewolf. Bob Hoskins on the other hand was a brilliant Iago; even the notoriously hard-to-please critic Harold Bloom thought he was the best Iago he'd ever seen. It's no wonder he went on to become such a big star. Jonathan Miller's dry, academic direction typifies what was wrong with the 1980s BBC productions of Shakespeare, particularly the pedantic insistence on giving everything an Elizabethan English setting. "Othello" takes place in Venice and Cyprus; it's a Mediterranean story that cries out for a Mediterranean setting, as Orson Welles demonstrated in his masterful 1952 version of "Othello," which is everything this movie isn't. Also, why couldn't they have gotten a black man to play Othello? Sure, Welles and Olivier were white, but they were from an earlier generation when it didn't seem as insulting as it does now. Where's Morgan Freeman when you need him? (Samuel L. Jackson would be great too!)
  • cabchronicle11 March 2003
    I have to say, when my class started studying this film version of 'Othello', I looked forward to seeing Hopkins and Hoskins face off. Instead, I viewed one of the most horrible performances of Shakespeare I have ever seen. It was amazing; Hoskins plays Iago as a giggling, demonaical child with no more motivation than a teen movie prankster--in fact, even less. Desdemona was a pure ice queen; she simply did not seem like the kind of woman that would leave her father and everything she knows for a mysterious foreigner. But the kicker was our Othello. Anthony Hopkins must have been under the guidance of the most inept idiot of a director, because this was the worst performance of his career! I never thought I'd live to see the day when Othello would bark, growl, and shake his tongue like a hideously mad dog--after showing no hint whatsoever of anything like passion or love towards Desdemona, unless passing, pettish attraction is to be called the kind of desire and chemistry that existed between the lovers. I don't think it's Hopkins' fault, though--it must be the director. I have seen a few videos of this BBC series as part of my class, and most are pretty bad, even though they have really excellent actors in them. Even the production values and camera work are horrible. This is certainly not worth watching.
  • I saw this together with "Ayurveda," because that film had much of the same notion I expected to see here.

    Making an interesting film is a challenge because of the constraints of the medium and the way we corral narratives into genre.

    Making a film of Shakespeare is a greater challenge. You cannot deviate too much from the stage conventions that 19th century performers imposed on the plays. The producers would lose their core audience: high school teachers.

    This play is particularly challenging because it hits a weak spot in film today: the tension between what actors and directors think is essential in the play (and life). Of all the plays, this one presents the greatest opportunity for the actors to hijack the enterprise at the cost of the valuable sense of the thing.

    It's ironic because the main motion in the play's structure is just this idea of how the order of the environment fights the action of willful individuals within.

    I think the writer at this stage in his life worked from the outside in, focusing on the forces that are unloosed in the world, then forming images and analogies that finally can map to some story he finds. So far as we know, he never made up his stories, instead appropriated existing ones, bending them to fit his needs. So though schoolkids assiduously write about the "themes" of this, it is instead rooted in something more abstract and powerful.

    A good actor, a smart one, will know this and work hard with the director to create not a character but a world that buffets a character. A good actor-director like Welles will have devised some cinematic devices to make this work. Welles used cinematic architecture — by this I mean physical walls and spaces — in what still seems to be the highest achievement of that approach.

    A bad actor, and actor that ONLY knows acting, will jump on these lines and think they have to do with defining a man and his urges. He will ignore how those urges and the complementary ones of those around him, are pulled from afar, deep in celestial machine. He will ignore the very notion of tragedy, the inevitability of the end because of the world, not the man.

    Hopkins is a bad actor. The BBC is spineless in its decisions. This is worthless, unless while you are bored you think about the forces in the world that tragically drive this to be the corpse it is.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.