Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #22 -- OTHELLO directed by Michael Haneke

The Plot:

Othello doesn’t know it, but he’s made a very dangerous enemy. When it came time to give out promotions, Iago got snubbed. Now, he is dedicating himself to tearing Othello’s life apart. In Othello’s new bride, Desdemona, Iago sees an ample opportunity. He uses his extraordinary powers of persuasion and manipulation to set in motion a series of events that lead Othello to believe that Desdemona is unfaithful -- better yet, unfaithful with Cassio, the man who received the promotion Iago so eagerly desired. He plants Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s bedroom, leaving Othello so enraged that smothers her to death in her own bed.

Why Haneke?

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most brutal, unrelentingly vicious plays, but it’s also one of his most fascinating. Iago deserves to rank amongst Richard III, King Lear and yes, even Hamlet, as one of his most complex, captivating creations. Some explanation is given for Iago’s evil deeds, but one gets the impression that Iago is a character so infatuated with orchestrating agony that Othello’s snub serves merely as an excuse for him to unload the full extent of his maliciousness. Even though he should make us recoil in disgust, his deeds are so brazen, so cold-hearted and so ingeniously devised that instead we watch with mouths agape as Othello walks right into a trap. In order to get the maximum effect out of Othello, I choose Michael Haneke, whose Funny Games features a pair of relentless thugs who methodically rip apart a family, seemingly with no other motivation than sport. At times, they even chastize the viewer for being unable to look away. In another of his uncompromising films, The Piano Teacher, Isabelle Huppert plays a rigid instructor who punishes an untalented student in a shockingly cruel manner. When it comes to the dark impulses of the soul that urge some to lash out at their fellow humans, I have seen few who can rival Haneke. His films possess a coldness and a wickedness that seem to me just right for Othello.

Haneke films I have seen:

1. The Piano Teacher ****
2. Funny Games ****
3. Cache ****
4. Code Unknown ***1/2
5. Benny's Video ***
6. The Time of the Wolf ***


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