n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - "An extravagant and wheeling stranger of here and everywhere." Characterising Othello on film : exploring seven film adaptations

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



One problem that presents for the film-maker lies in the location of the tragic action. Film is primarily a visual medium, dealing with the reflection of light from surfaces; yet the central dramatic development in the play is in the change which darkens Othello's psychological landscape. There is little exterior action in the central scenes of the play to fill the screen with spectacle. What visual elements can the film maker work with in order to position Othello in his relation to Venetian society and to impress his exotic individuality in the mind of the viewer? There are clear aspects of Othello's singularity which can be made to register on the surface. His skin colour, the clothes he wears, the unusual pendent adornments that might hang about his person, movement, gesture, facial expression - all elements that might be equally important on the theatre stage. On a sound track, words can be spoken with distinctive inflections, can suggest shifts in strength of feeling, as can music in evoking thoughts and memories and emotions lying behind verbal discourse.

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