Othello (1995): Oliver Parker Version

Castle Rock/Columbia

It seems that every generation needs its own Othello, Hamlet, and Richard III. Indeed, with an eye for the youth market, first-time feature director Oliver Parker makes a modern erotic thriller out of “Othello,” Shakespeare’s reliable play.

The novelty of this one is that the gullible, well-meaning hero is played by Lawrence Fishburne–the first time that a black actor plays the role on screen, following the tradition of Orson Welles (l954) and Laurence Olivier (1965), who had to darken their face.

Fishburne gives a decent, naturalistic performance that makes the play accessible for modern viewers. The malevolent Iago is brilliantly embodied by British actor Kenneth Branagh. However, Desdemona, Othello’s beautiful angelic wife, as played by the luminous French beauty Irene Jacob (who had starred in two of Kieslowski’s features, “The Double Life of Veronique” and Three Color: Red”) is rather pale.

Though decently acted, like most international co-productions, this Othello suffers from the mixture of accents and styles.