Sunday, November 11, 2018
Written, directed, and co-starring Orson Welles, Filming Othello is a documentary film about the making of Othello by Welles which he first released in 1952 in Europe and later in a slightly-shortened version in 1955 in the U.S. and Britain. The film has Welles chronicle the film’s production that was troubled but also show Welles in his element as the film would be the last completed release by the filmmaker. The result is a fascinating film from Orson Welles.
When Othello was released in 1952 in Europe where it premiered at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and would share its top prize, it marked a new era for Orson Welles where he would make films independently in Europe. More than 25 years later, Welles is standing above the moviola editing machine talking about that film from its troubled production to his own ideas about William Shakespeare’s play and its many interpretations. During the course of the film, Welles discusses many of the scenes of the film in his office as well as on the editing machine which include a dinner conversation with Micheal MacLiammor and Hilton Edwards who both appeared in the film as Iago and Brabantio respectively. Set in the middle of the film, the three men talk about their respective characters as well as other interpretations of the play including a version made by Laurence Olivier.
Much of Welles’ direction is straightforward where he would do commentary on scenes in the film where he talks about the fact that one key scene was shot at a fishing plant where they had to use incense for the atmosphere. Welles revealed many of the problems with the production related to money as an Italian producer who was funding the film suddenly went broke forcing Welles to take up acting jobs to get the film funded while he would pay the crew from his own pocket. With the help of cinematographer Gary Graver in shooting his discussions on the film and conversations with others and editor Marty Roth in gathering footage from his film.
Welles would later talk to people at a screening of his film as he answers questions while being quite calm and humble where he does dispel many of the personas that he had been called for years. Even as he also talk about the film at length and what he felt he could’ve done to improve it. With the film’s music by Alberto Barberis and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino that would play over footage of the film with its orchestral score, Welles would use the music to play into the footage he’s commenting on with a sense of nostalgia where despite all of the difficulties and issues he had with the production. He is still proud of what he created even though he admits that it doesn’t do enough justice to what William Shakespeare had created.
Filming Othello is an incredible film from Orson Welles. It’s a compelling documentary film that has Welles talk about one of his films and bring insight into what was trying to make as well as the difficulties in trying to tell William Shakespeare’s tragic story with the limitations he had. In the end, Filming Othello is a remarkable film from Orson Welles.
Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - Macbeth (1948 film) - Othello (1952 film) - Mr. Arkadin - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - Chimes at Midnight - The Immortal Story - F for Fake - The Other Side of the Wind
Related: Orson Welles: The One-Man Band – The Eyes of Orson Welles - They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead - The Auteurs #69: Orson Welles: Part 1 - Part 2
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