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994 Ratings


The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice

Directed by Orson Welles
Italy, Morocco, 1951
Drama, Romance, History


Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian aristocrat, elopes with Moorish military hero Othello, to the great resentment of Othello’s envious underling Iago. Alas, Iago knows Othello’s weakness, and with chilling malice works on him with but too good effect.

Our take

In 1952, Welles won the top prize at Cannes Film Festival for this gripping, expressionist masterwork, rich with shadowy, angular shots. Wells plays the titular role in Othello, which was his first film shot in exile and one of the best, most visually rapturous takes on a Shakespeare story.

Othello Directed by Orson Welles
Just look at how impressive Othello is, despite being shot on and off for three years’ time (partly in Morocco). You would not guess that it was. There is a combination of so many gifts there, improvisation and audacity in particular, and passion.
October 19, 2018
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As successive restorations have improved the visuals, Welles’ achievement becomes clearer. I still regret Welles’ over-optimism about what he can get away with in terms of lip-sync, or its absence, and his reliance on dirt-speckled freeze-frames for a couple of shots at the climax. But the film, in all its glorious audio-visual incoherence, succeeds as fever-dream, a shimmering flick-book of staggering architectural contortions.
October 18, 2017
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Welles’s early work abounds in high-contrast lighting and sinuous tracking shots, as well as the utilization of architecture as psychological symbolism. This is also true of Othello, but this film also initiates Welles’s experimentation with a sophisticated editing syntax. Psychology isn’t only expressed by the fabulous gothic castles and in-camera framing, but by the fevered energy of the cutting, and by the spontaneous repetition of certain images to convey the free association of thought.
October 15, 2017
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