Houjun Liu

NUS-ENG401 Film Analysis Outline

“Dialogue tends towards minimalism; instead, Bhardwaj relies heavily on extradiegetic and intradiegetic instrumental and vocal music”

While both a lust for Othello’s power and Rodrigo’s provocations of Iago drove him initially to begin his scheme, it is Iago’s internal racist hatred of Othello as a person that allowed his plot to fully come to fruition.

Establish pattern two othellos: othello the person “the moor”, and othello the general “othello”

The four texts’ Iagos can be treated in the same framework of “love”–hatred, whether racial or otherwise, for Othello—versus “respect”—deference to the authority of Othello.

  • Shakesphere’s Othello: hates the guy, likes the general
    • Iago pretty much said as much “I hate the Moor”
    • Understand the role of power Othello has: “In following him, I follow but myself”; evidently want to be Lieutenant for his power

In the work, “Othello” v. “Moor” is effectively two different people “After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear … The Moor is of a free and open nature,”. The former, the general, well-respected for his power by Iago, that demoted Cassio; the latter, the outcast person that actually did the betrayal and whom Iago hates.

Sax’s Othello: iago’s hatred of othello the person is drien by racism

Yes, though this lust for power provoked Iago to mess with Othello the person to get the powers of othello the general, he is definitely overtly racist to othello the person starting from the beginning.

Praises to Andrew Davies, managed to cram in a lot into the I hate the Moor speech.

Hates the guy:

  • overtly racist “You stupid, patronizing ape … how very quaint, how very d— sunday school”

    • “d— sunday school”: white mistrel mocking AA worship => hand gestures of Iago
    • N word
  • he is basically Iago’s understudy “how very good for you to acknowledge what you owe to me, you owe me everything, everything!”

    — for all the talk about love, it is “If I could find any whose brains were as big as their dicks, I’d be a happy man, eh?”

Mirrors racism in Shakesphere: “The Moor … will as tenderly be led by the nose … as asses are.”

Again, in lust with not with the guy but with his power: “It’s a shame really, he’s a good man. … It going to take a bit longer, and its all going to end in broken hearts.”

“It’s love. Simple as that” (close reading: love, perhaps against Othello, or perhaps his position)

Deardon’s Iago: hatred actually useful—-otherwise Iago would not have succeeded

Why is this racism necessary.

Deardon attempts an answer: Perhaps as a product of civil rights, or the jazz counteculture, the race component is functionally erased, and instead Deardon’s Iago is lusting over Desdemona. The film is one which Iago and Othello were ostensibly friends—during the subtext perhaps more of a reflection for civil rights sentiment (especially via the counter-culture language of Jazz of the time) “apparently natural construct of a racially diverse … sub-culture: ’the [diverse racial archetypes] intermingle smoothly and fraternisation creates deep emotional pangs, rather than embarrassment’” (Kinematograph Weekly) (Burton and O’Sullivan)

Critics hated particularly the soft ending: “never for one moment succeeds in achieving anything like the power and persuasion of the original.” (Films and Filming) Why is the soft-ending? When Othello almost smoothered Desdemona, three people went and checked immediatley, and there was no Emilia’s “The Moor’s abused by some most villainous knave, Some base notorious knave”. She immediately doubted Iago, confusion was cleared, and all was well.

So though Rodrigo ignited Iago’s scheme, racism dragged Iago’s scheme long enough for both to be dead.

Bhardwaj’s Othello: Rodrigo Convinced Merge between two Othellos, setting forward motion


Iago provoked by Rodrigo jeering him: “no more of drowning, do you hear?” “I could jump into this river” … “well jump! Don’t be a sissy [sic].” Then Rodrigo provoked Iago about how Iago was slighted by Othello; relegating Iago to a role in “Company Garden”.

It is at this moment that the music swells, ominous vocal tones that reprises from the beginning titles of the film, of “title faintly visible images of what appear to be ancient scenes of combat.”

“Bhardwaj composes all his film scores and writes music and script simultaneously”, so the intentionality here is not to be missed. Motivated more by a masculine sense of revenge against General Othello, Iago decided to take personal action against the hated Moor.

Odd choice, too, to relegate Iago to “company garden.” Turns out, Shakesphere defined it for us! “Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; … we have reason to cool our … unbitted lusts; … I take this, that you call love, to be a sect or scion.” Iago claims love is a “cutting” of unbitted lust, which he should cut. Metaphorically cutting Othello’s the person’s love for desdemona as if he’s mechanically cutting away some lust; all to achieve a goal for General Othello.

“Othello should go mad”

Comparing Iago

  • No Love, No respect | Direct objective: to get Othello’s position at the Met
  • Yes Love, Yes Respect | Direct objective: to remove Desdemona from Othello’s control and start a band
  • No Love, Yes Respect | Direct objective: faithful—to get Othello to choose him as the direct regional militia leader <> Shakesphere

Missing: Yes Love, Yes Respect

Actual Othello

  • IAGO: “No more of drowning, do you hear?” <> Omkara

Bhardwaj’s Iago

  • Direct objective: faithful—to get Othello to choose him as the direct regional militia leader
  • Hidden objective: …??? not sure not well motivated
  • Direct Downfall of Othello: “ocular proof” of jingly heirloom
  • Main Methods
    • <> Shakesphere beer to Cassio
    • <> Shakesphere making Othello overhear conversation with Cassio about Bianca to think its about Desdemona
    • <> Shakesphere convinces Desdemona to soothsay for Cassio
    • Random bad omen about bird/snake?
    • <> Shakesphere Heirloom
  • Distinctions
    • Process of manipulation is more toxically masculine instead of weird submissiveness
    • “I hate Moor” + drowning scene took place somewhat after being provoked by Rodrigo firing his jealousy after Iago fired Rodrigo’s jealousy about Desdemona
  • Unique shots/catchphrases/features
    • Instances of violence/impending violence underscored by very cheerful music
      • Cheerful music as Othello beats up everybody in the rival gang
      • Happy cheerful party music as Cassio becomes drunk and gets demoted

Sax’s Iago

  • Direct objective: to get Othello’s position at the Met
  • Hidden objective: [racism for]/[sexual desire for] Othello
  • Direct Downfall of Othello: A, B, and C for intimacy test for the robe
  • Main methods
    • <> Shakesphere conversation to arise suspicion
    • Hinted to Cassio that marriage is not genuine and provoked him
    • Screwed up Othello’s investigation of the constable
    • Demanded intimacy test and A, B, AND C
  • Distinctions
    • Wants Othello’s position, and probably his love
    • Is more explicitly lying (A, B, AND C)
    • Is more overtly racist: beginning conversation with Sinclair, the racist (“I hate the moor” proxy) rant
    • Relationship with Emilia seem less strained
  • Unique shots/catchphrases/features
    • Staring up into the sky w/ shaft of light
    • “I know what you are talking about, I’ve been there” prior to manipulation
    • “And that’s a promise”

Darden’s Iago

  • Direct objective: to remove Desdemona from Othello’s control and start a band
  • Hidden objective: to date Desdemona
  • Direct Downfall of Othello: [the cigarette box?] + edited tape recording
  • Main Methods
    • <> Shakesphere gave weed to Cassio to cause him to make a scene
    • <> Shakesphere conversation to arise suspicion re: knowledge from Emilia
    • Engineered Desdemona’s song to be specifically pointed
    • <> Shakesphere “ocular proof”: cigarette case; also insinuating that Cassio’s weed came from Desdemona
    • Doctoring the tape to highlight Cassio’s supposed infidelity
  • Distinctions
    • In love with Desdemona and had separate business motivations distinct from taking Othello/Cassio’s
    • Didn’t seem particularly racist, was previously friends with Othello?
    • Is more explicitly lying by doctoring tape, but words closer to Shakesphere’s Iago
    • Didn’t succeed
    • Most strained relationship with Emilia, “I love nobody. Don’t even love Jonny”
  • Unique shots/catchphrases/features
    • Shot of Cousin Jonny / Rodrigo alone, in his home, isolated with light cast on him
    • Frenzied drum solo
    • Motivated somewhat by Lou, the financier
    • The rising of stairs up and down the main factory as well as to a side building
    • Weed.
  • Close reading Iago’s first drum solo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA-vKHOVDCw
    • Iago: looks to the side, then at the camera directly
    • Othello: looks generally at the direction of the camera, but as camera pans in closes his eyes and look down and away
    • Desdemona: looks entirely to the side, uncaring
    • Iago: looks down (like Othello’s ending shot), then looks up and to the side, cutting to…
    • Othello: looking at the opposite side, seemingly “towards” Iago, then looks down
    • Iago: as drum solo becomes more frenzied, (mildly extreme) close up staring dead into the camera
    • frienzied drum soloing
    • Iago: looks down, and then to the side, seemingly contemplating
    • Desdemona: stares dead ahead
    • Othello: looks to the side and down, hand holding head
    • Iago: eyes pans across audience