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The film Othello, directed by Oliver Parker and made in 1995 is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play that was written in the early 1600s. The film takes on several of Shakespeare’s strong recurring themes of love and tragedy. Othello also touches on other imperative themes that are still prominent in the world today, including class and rank in society, racism, and manipulation of individuals for the purpose of self-benefit. Currently, manipulation and deception still, unfortunately, take place in the current world through many platforms despite human advancement.

In an early scene of the film, we see a glimpse of Iago’s true intentions as they are shown to the camera and to the audience. Thus, we are able to see that manipulation is already taking place from such an early stage in the film and that Iago’s deceitful wordplay is effective. The shot is taken from a mid-angle closeup. The camera is tightly framing Iago’s face which is dimly lit, emphasizing his close-minded view and poor reaction to the Moor. Iago is clothed in rugged and dark-colored apparel, which perfectly reflects his overall demeanor and outlook on the Moor and just about everyone in society. At the same time, we hear Iago’s dialogue, which is portrayed on screen as an aside, which is a technique wherein only the audience can hear what is being spoken. He delivers it in a soft-spoken but intimidating and bitter manner, soft-spoken to the point where it sounds as if he’s speaking with clenched teeth.


Thus do I ever make my fool my purse: For I mine own

gained knowledge should profane if I would time expend

with such a snipe But for my sport and profit – I hate the


This combination of visual and verbal techniques helps the audience develop an understanding of a major theme in the film which extends and continues throughout the film’s entirety. Firstly, Iago’s facial posture and eye shape tell us that his intentions aren’t entirely pure. His still look, puckered lips, and slightly raised eyebrows showcase his evil intent to betray and deceive. This is backed up by the partly dim lighting shining only on specific parts of his face. The angle of the lighting is important because the lighting directly reflects manipulative behavior, there are parts of light that are shining toward his face, but much of it is still without light. The absence of all other sounds means that the focus is concentrated on Iago’s dialogue. His soft-spoken but bitter and revengeful tone clarifies that his intentions for everyone he encounters are nothing but corrupt. His words evidently show that he knows he is being manipulative, and is completely aware of the fact that his straightforward honesty is the foundation for all of his deceptions.

Iago’s dialogue continues as the camera moves to an even closer medium close-up shot which gives us a better view of Iago’s facial expressions. By incorporating such a closeup shot of his face, we are able to see his striking facial expression which screams for superior authority and power. His still puckered lips and dull eye shape along with his continued dialogue signals that he is acting off suspicion. He vows revenge and seeks higher power from the Moor and his companions by taking advantage of them with his words.

And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets He’s

done my office. I know not if’t be true But I, for more

suspicion in that kind, Will do as if for surety. He holds me

well: The better shall my purpose work on him.

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Cassio’s a proper man: Let me see now;

To got his place and to plume up my will

In double knavery. How?

By doing this we know that his deceitful wordplay is not only effective to us as an audience but to everyone he encounters throughout the film. By combining this medium closeup shot and the dialogue, Parker shows Iago as a man who is obsessed with power and control. Ultimately leading to the destruction of not only the main line of characters but himself also.

The next shot we see is a medium far shot.

This shot includes Iago’s slightly angled face in focus. Placed off-center and blurred are 3 chess pieces, which symbolize the relationship between the three main characters, which Iago, who is placed in the middle, is hoping to shatter. At the same time, we hear Iago’s short dialogue


Let’s see

I haven’t. It is engendered.

Hell and night. Must bring this monstrous birth to the

world’s light.

He delivers his dialogue in this shot in the same soft-spoken manner as he did in the first two shots. But through this sequence, Parker develops the theme of manipulation through Iago’s true hidden intentions, and that his unbeknownst intentions could even deceive both those of lowest and highest authority. This would end in the inevitable death of the manipulator, Iago himself, alongside those whom his plan was originally aimed at targeting. This shot can be immediately related to a shot that happens in the latter part of the film, wherein Iago, Othello, Emilia, and Desdemona’s bodies are dumped into the water after death, which reflects the chess pieces on the board being thrown off by Iago’s hand.

The themes Parker managed to display in the film directly relate to themes that can be witnessed in life and society today. This shows that Shakespeare’s play Othello and many of his other pieces have great relevance to the world today. The theme of manipulation can be seen in the form of our own friends. it is often those closest to us, that plot the greatest evil against us. Another scenario of manipulation wherein one can deceive many others today is in the courtroom. Courtroom manipulation greatly relates to the film Othello because Iago was able to deceive all of those around him, similar to how the lawyer of a guilty defendant has the power to manipulate everyone in the courtroom, including the judge. Despite the rapid changes and advancement in human technology, we have today, such manipulation can pass through the minds of even the highest-ranked officials, like how Parker was able to portray in his film Othello.

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