Based on Shakespeare's play: As Venice welcomes their victorious general, Othello the Moor, back to the city, some of them are waiting for Othello to choose his new lieutenant, while others are busy courting the popular Desdemona, the daughter of a Senator. Othello chooses the loyal Cassio as his lieutenant, arousing bitter jealousy in Iago, another soldier, who vows to scheme against his general. That same night, Othello elopes with Desdemona. Othello is soon sent to Cyprus to repel a Turkish invasion, and he arranges for Iago and his wife to bring Desdemona with them to Cyprus. When Iago's wife learns of a treasured handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona, this provides Iago with an idea that he hopes will destroy Othello by provoking him to jealousy. Written by
I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I have seen a couple dozen different silent versions of his films and I must say that this film is definitely the best. Unlike some of the earliest versions that only lasted a few minutes (way too short to do any justice to the plays), this one was a lengthy film--allowing for a reasonable treatment. Now you STILL can't compare this to a sound version of the film because since it's a silent, the lyrical quality of the play is missing. Some purists might hate this (after all, they don't recite the play verbatim like many sound versions), but I liked how the play was changed to a pantomime piece with an emphasis on action and characterization.
For someone who doesn't get excited about hearing all the original words of Shakespeare yet loves silent films, this is a wonderful film. The sets for 1922 were exceptional and the acting was fortunately not over the top--which is sometimes a problem with OTHELLO. You do NOT see a crazed caricature of a man, as Emil Jannings plays the lead role very well--with humanity and not relying too much on gesticulations or campiness. He was an amazing silent actor--hence his winning the first Oscar for Best Actor just a few years later. Unfortunately, he was also a devoted Nazi and wasted his talent from the mid-1930s onward!
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