18 April 2007 | sarastro7
I am a great Shakespeare aficionado, and I am usually very skeptical about versions that don't use the original text. Yes, adaptation is a valid genre in itself, but a modern-language adaptation is usually only meaningful because it refers back to the original work that we acknowledge the immense value of. People (film-makers and audience alike) must understand that, if you leave behind Shakespeare's language, you invariably leave behind 90% of the art and subtext. You leave behind almost everything that makes the audience think, retaining only the part that is easily digestible as immediate entertainment. In most cases, this is acceptable only to those who do not distinguish significantly between high art and immediate entertainment.
Then there are the exceptions, like this absolutely excellent modern version of Othello. It is very professionally produced in every way; the language, though mostly modern, is just that little bit prettier than everyday language, containing some nice similes and alliterations here and there, as if inclining ever so slightly towards Shakespearean language. Very nice! The plot has been significantly altered, and with it is also altered a good deal of the original statements of the play, but it is done respectfully, as if understanding that it is impossible to retain all the philosophical substance of the original. And the alterations supply their own new patterns to make the internal logic of this production a wholesome and consistent thing. Beautiful! The actors don't miss a beat. Their performances are flawless.
As an ardent Shakespeare reader, I must confess that Othello is one of the plays that can sometimes become a bit boring to me. As a person, I am not really that interested in stories that use jealousy as the central plot point, because, frankly, I find it rather unexciting and, for me at least, irrelevant. The original Othello is of course a play pregnant with a myriad thoughts and ideas, justifying repeated rereadings, whereas a modern version will tend to strip away all the circumstantial pondering and leave us with a bare-bones jealousy plot. This can get simplistic and is why adapters as a general rule should be wary of over-simplification, as it tends to get *so* simple that the Shakespeareness of it is entirely lost. And then what was the point of the exercise? However, this particular production has enough connections to the Bardic original, and enough topical connections to the current-day world, that it is more than a jealousy story. It is also a character study, a challenging exercise in plot structure, and a study in near-Shakespearean method acting, and it manages to effectively hold the attention and maintain a level of meaningful entertainment throughout. This is a DVD well worth its price.
9 out of 10. An impressive production.