Othello is a 1995 film based on William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name. It was directed by Oliver Parker and stars Laurence Fishburne as Othello, Irène Jacob as Desdemona, and Kenneth Branagh as Iago. This is the first cinematic reproduction of the play released by a major studio that casts an African American actor to play the role of Othello, although low-budget independent films of the play starring Ted Lange and Yaphet Kotto predated it.
This film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello. Othello is a Moor who has secretly married his native Venetian lover Desdemona, is assigned to fight against a Turkish invasion attempt on the island of Cyprus. During the battle, he was accompanied by his faithful lieutenant, Cassio. When Othello finally arrives at Cyprus, however, the Turkish invasion fleet has been wrecked by a storm, and, reunited with Desdemona, who had volunteered herself to go with him, leads his men and the people of Cyprus in a celebration.
Iago, Othello's trusted companion and ensign, envies Othello's prosperous life and Cassio's lieutenancy and, convinced that both of them had slept with his own wife, Emilia, plans to ruin both by manipulating Othello into believing that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio and is pregnant with Cassio's child. He arouses Othello's suspicion and jealousy gradually and then plants Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's clothing for Othello to find. When he does, he is convinced of Desdemona's infidelity and, in a rage, decides to kill both her and Cassio.
Othello smothers Desdemona, who dies just as Emilia enters the bedroom. Emilia then tells Othello the truth behind Iago's lies and he realizes what he has done. The authorities and Othello turn on Iago, and, after a running fight, capture and beat him. In despair, Othello stabs and wounds Iago. Othello then kills himself, and Iago is taken away to be tortured and executed.
The film, shot in Italy, follows the story of the play closely, but cuts many lines. In addition it adds silent scenes not in the play, including the return of Othello and the marriage at the beginning, a sex scene between Othello and Desdemona, dreams in which Othello imagines Desdemona's supposed affair with Cassio, a scene in which Desdemona dances for Othello, a scene in an infirmary where Roderigo and Cassio are treated for their wounds, and a final scene in which the bodies of those killed are buried at sea.
Laurence Fishburne as Othello
Irène Jacob as Desdemona
Kenneth Branagh as Iago
Nathaniel Parker as Cassio
Michael Maloney as Roderigo
Anna Patrick as Emilia
Nicholas Farrell as Montano
Indra Ové as Bianca
Michael Sheen as Lodovico
The film was a bomb at the box office, grossing only $2.1 million in the United States on its $11 million budget (however, it had a very limited theater count). Despite this, it received largely positive reviews, especially for Branagh's Iago. Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times "Mr. Branagh's superb performance, as the man whose Machiavellian scheming guides the story of Othello's downfall, guarantees this film an immediacy that any audience will understand." Branagh was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance, in the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role category.