Wednesday, September 18, 2013


1965, 158 minutes, Olivier, Frank Finlay (Iago)
The function of a Shakespeare film is to frame the script and this one does it very well. I've understood the play better than in the past. Frank Finlay's paints a fascinating Iago, immersing in the lines to give us a clear vision of the flow of his thoughts and the working of his mind. Olivier's Othello too rises to a fever pitch of histrionics, quite unabashedly overdoing it. We cannot accuse him of restraint, nor of not doing justice to the character. This is a painful drama to watch. Suspense builds up as Iago screws in his instruments of torture with consummate skill, deliberation and courage. The moor is driven to paroxysms of mental anguish, culminating in an epileptic seizure. The end is cathartic, as Othello stabs himself to join the wronged Desdemona. Rightfully, Iago is denied the relief of death, being distilled evil (he is dubbed "serpent") without any saving grace.And of course, he is the more interesting of the two leading characters. Mephistopheles he may be, it is hard to withhold admiration for his poise and clarity of mind, his capacity for bold improvisation and the courage as he plays with fire, staking his own life and safety, serving no material gain but his own inverted vindication. Determination, purpose and clarity of the path to follow are qualities one associates with snakes. Othello is but a pitiable blabbering poet, as Iago manipulates him like a monkey on a string. What a magnificent play!

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