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Russian film adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy.
In the late sixteenth century, Othello, a Moor who is the leading general in Venice, elopes with Desdemona, the only daughter of influential senator Brabantio. Othello's ensign, Iago, witnesses the secret ceremony, and jealous that Othello has promoted Michael Cassio to the position of his lieutenant instead of Iago, alerts Brabantio. The elderly senator is horrified and rushes to the palace to demand justice. There, the senator discovers that the duke is already seeking Othello, because the Turks are about to invade the Venetian garrison at Cyprus and Othello has been elected to defend it. Othello, accompanied by Desdemona, appears before the duke and the senate, and denies Brabantio's charge that he has bewitched Desdemona. Othello reveals that while he was a guest of Brabantio, he would relate his life story, and Desdemona grew to pity and love him, and he began to return her love. When Brabantio demands that Desdemona state whom she should obey, the self-confident young woman states that she owes her father for her life, but that her ultimate loyalty lies with her new husband. Devastated, Brabantio warns Othello that as she deceived her father, so may Desdemona deceive her husband, but Othello dismisses his concerns. While Othello is being told about his new commission, the proceedings are watched by Iago and his stooge, Roderigo, who is also in love with Desdemona. Although Othello believes that Iago is sincere, Iago is actually scheming to destroy him. After Othello and Desdemona consummate their marriage, Othello leaves Venice to fight the Turks, and Iago escorts Desdemona to the Cyprus garrison. Some time later, Othello arrives at the fortress with news that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed by storms, and is joyously welcomed by Desdemona. After Othello orders a celebration and retires with Desdemona, Iago persuades Cassio, who is supposed to be on watch, to drink with him. Soon Cassio is drunk, and Iago engineers a brawl between Cassio and Roderigo, which wakes Othello. Disappointed that Cassio is drunk and fighting while on duty, Othello demotes him. Later, Iago consoles Cassio, who is distraught that his reputation has been tarnished, and advises him to ask Desdemona to talk to Othello about reinstating him as his lieutenant. Later, Othello and Iago spot Cassio and Desdemona talking, and Iago whispers that he does not like seeing them together. Othello shrugs off Iago's insinuation and, when Desdemona asks him to receive Cassio, genially agrees. Irritated, Iago questions Othello about Cassio's role in his courtship with Desdemona, as Cassio occasionally acted as their go-between. Iago casts aspersions on Cassio's and Desdemona's honesty, and although Othello is reluctant to believe him, he is haunted by Brabantio's warning. Seeing that Othello is upset, Desdemona tries to calm him using the handkerchief that he gave her as a special love token, but he tosses it away and storms off. The handkerchief is retrieved by Emilia, Iago's wife and Desdemona's lady-in-waiting, and despite her misgivings about her husband's motives, Emilia gives him the handkerchief. Iago then goes to Othello, who demands that Iago supply proof that his wife has been unfaithful. Iago spins a tale of hearing Cassio talk in his sleep about his love for Desdemona, then seeing him wipe his face with her handkerchief. Enraged, Othello orders Iago to kill Cassio and appoints Iago as his lieutenant. Iago then tosses the handkerchief into Cassio's room, where it is found by Bianca, Cassio's courtesan. Meanwhile, Desdemona again approaches Othello about Cassio, but when Othello learns that she cannot find her handkerchief, he angrily orders her to leave. Iago then arranges for Othello to eavesdrop as he questions Cassio, supposedly about his affair with Desdemona. Iago actually asks Cassio about Bianca, who is in love with him, much to Cassio's amusement. Hearing only Cassio's laughter, Othello is outraged, especially upon seeing Bianca with Desdemona's handkerchief. Although he is convinced of her betrayal, Othello is still torn by his love for Desdemona until Iago tells him that Cassio confided that he slept with her. Othello has an epileptic fit, and after Iago revives him, Othello muses that he is so crushed that he can no longer function as a soldier. Othello then learns that Lodovico, a messenger from Venice, has arrived with a summons for him to return home, leaving Cassio in charge of Cyprus. When Desdemona states that she is pleased by Cassio's promotion because of her affection for him, Othello misunderstands her innocent comment and strikes her. Soon after, Othello interrupts Desdemona's prayers and accuses her of being a whore. Emilia then comforts the anguished Desdemona, who cannot understand the change in her husband. Meanwhile, Othello asks Iago to procure some poison for him to use on Desdemona, but instead Iago advises him to strangle her in her bed. Iago then goes to the steambaths, where Roderigo, who has been giving Iago jewels to bribe Desdemona, declares that he is returning to Venice, as Desdemona has not returned his affections. Iago, having kept the jewels for himself and hoping for more, convinces Roderigo to remain, telling him that if he kills Cassio, Desdemona and Othello will have to stay at the garrison. Urged on by Iago, the foppish Roderigo attempts to kill Cassio but only wounds him. While Cassio's friends search the baths for the assailant, Iago spots Roderigo hidden beneath the floorboards and stabs him to death. That night, Othello approaches Desdemona as she waits in their bed and, after ascertaining that she has prayed, strangles her, despite her protestations of innocence. Emilia rushes in just as the dying Desdemona asks her to commend her to her "kind lord." The grief-stricken Emilia then cries out that Desdemona was faithful to Othello, and that it was Iago who planted the handkerchief in Cassio's room. Fellow Venetians Montano and Gratiano enter with Iago as Emilia continues telling Othello that he was deceived by Iago, and Iago stabs her. Iago is apprehended by Montano and Gratiano, who bring him before Othello. Othello confesses that he conspired with Iago to kill Cassio, and that he strangled Desdemona. Horrified by what he has done, Othello stabs himself, then staggers to his bedroom, where he clasps Desdemona's body. Asking his friends to speak kindly of him, Othello begs them to describe him as one who "loved not wisely but too well," then dies with Desdemona in his arms.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||World premiere at Cannes Film Festival: 12 May 1952|
|Release Date:||1952||Production Date:||
A Mercury Production by Orson Welles
EB; UCLA has videodisc P-VD671M and VHS P-VA7853M; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Color (Sovcolor)||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Marceau Films|
|Duration(mins):||90 or 92||Country:||United States|
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Orson Welles' Othello
Overall- 4 1/2 out of 5Lead Performers-5/5Supporting Cast-4/5Director-5/5Score-2/5 (this is for the score in the restoration. I found it jarring at...