Tragedy and manipulation is present constantly throughout Othello by William Shakespeare. Othello is the story of a Moorish general who falls in love with a young woman named Desdemona, even though he has no experience with women. The director of the film, Oliver Parker, contrasts the ideas of appearance and reality. Through the film effects, the camera angles, and the colours of clothing Parker is able to convey many different messages. Green, yellow, white and black are colours that appear many times throughtout the film because of the messages that are hidden within each colour. Desdemona is always shown to be wearing yellow or white to portray her wisdom and womanly virtue. During the play as majority of the characters experience a change in colours, it is noted that her clothing remains the same. Othello however, gradually starts to wear black instead of the regular white. The director is conveying that Othello who was once pure slowly transitions to the darkness by succumbing to his doubt and suspicion. Towards the end of the play, Othello is dressed fully in black when he comes to Desdemona’s room. The manipulation was at its maximum effect when he was going to kill her, but after finding out the truth he was wearing a white shirt. Other characters on the other hand, wear colours that are not as easily explained. Iago is shown to wear a lot of black to signify how evil he is, but he also wears brown many times. This may be because he is hiding his true motives from the people that he seems to be helping. The brown would be symbolic for hiding one’s identity, such as when mud covers an object. Emilia continuously shows herself to be wearing green, and does not appear in the virtuous white like Desdemona. Through Emilia’s speech she is shown to be much more realistic than Desdemona even explaining that she would cheat on her husband if it would make him rich or give him higher social status. The green is symbolic for envy and reality. Emilia is somewhat envious that Desdemona is so pure, and believes that it is preposterous that she is so unrealistic in her love. Though coupled with colours, the camera angles are an important element that adds to the motifs of the film. Many different camera angles are depicted at very specific points during the film. The most commonly portrayed angle is showing a character through a window, bars, or an archway. This illustrates that the character is somehow trapped or confined by an action or event that has occurred in the plot. Early in the film, Othello is not framed which could be interpreted that he is completely free from any restraints at that point in the film. However Othello is showed increasingly more framed as events unfold. Majority of the time that he is framed, Iago is present representing that Iago is the cause for Othello becoming trapped in a web of doubt. In one specific scene Othello is hiding in a dungeon cell as he listens to a conversation between Iago and Cassio. After Cassio leaves, Iago comes back to talk to Othello about what he thought he heard. As Iago approaches, the camera moves to his point of view and shows that as Iago gets closer to the cell, the bars are getting closer and further trapping Othello. This illustrates that Iago had a great influence on Othello, such as a scene in the armory also shows a lot of crisscrossing patterns around Othello as he begins to be manipulated by Iago. These patterns inform the audience that Othello may come to a crossroads in the future in which he will not know which way is the correct path to take. Another important angle portrayed through the film is the angle that shows characters above other characters. Brabantio uses this angle when he talks to Roderigo, and when he is accusing Othello of using witchcraft to make his daughter fall in love with him. Othello seldomly utilizes this angle, but it is shown that Iago is constantly superior to majority of the other characters, especially Othello and Roderigo. Iago manipulates these two men very easily, and the director may be trying to explain that they are only manipulated so easily because Iago is superior to them and has much more power than them. Angles however, are not as effective without other elements of film-making such as using effects.
Sinister moods are present often in Othello, because of its tragic plot. Majority of the early scenes are shot in a light, open room which gives the impression of happiness and peace. There is no hint that there is any conflict during the first part of the movie, which is why there is no different use of lighting. Iago and Roderigo however, are illuminated with side lighting during majority of the scenes suggesting that one of the two characters may have a different personality or conscience. As the movie progresses, Othello begins to be illuminated from the side, unlike the normal lighting or top lighting. The top lighting that had usually been present when Desdemona or Othello was in the scene, was no longer used when Othello began to doubt Desdemona’s virtue. This suggest that Parker wanted the audience to know that Othello was no longer as pure as he had once been. Nearing the end of the movie, Othello begins to appear in scenes where there is limited or no light present at all. One such scene has Othello standing by the water and only his silhouette can be seen. The limited amounts of light that are cast upon Othello suggest that he has lost all of his purity and innocence. Another element of the film that stood out, was the use of fire. A fire flickers back and forth, changing directions unpredictably. This symbol represents the turmoil that was going on inside Othello’s head as he contemplated what the best course of action was concerning Desdemona’s supposed infidelity. When he starts to put out the candles begore he kills her, he has shown that he has chosen which decision he sould make.
Fire was an element that best described the conflict Othello faced, but the colours of clothing that the characters wore played an important role in explaining the themes of each scene. Parker continuously contrasts the themes of appearance and reality by blending together many elements of film-making.