“When you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him,” wrote George R.R. Martin in his novel, A Storm of Swords. Martin puts into words the depths of which manipulation can reach by knowing what a person most desires. The theme of manipulation and betrayal is prominent in literature today, just as it was during Shakespeare’s era. The play Othello, by William Shakespeare, is a tragedy based on the corrosive power of jealousy spanning all aspects of life. The antagonist, Iago, feeling unjustly deprived of role of lieutenant, targets the weaknesses of those close to him to further his own agenda. For the most part, Oliver Parker’s 1995 film adaptation of Othello remains true to the original work in terms of characters; dialogue and the majority of key plot points. At the same time, the portrayal of characters, such as Iago, has been altered to enhance the cinematic experience. Parker’s interpretation of the play not only appeals to a larger audience but it conveys a new depth of Iago’s emotions and portrays a heightened sense of conflict caused by Iago’s manipulations
Iago's frequent and direct soliloquies where he is staring directly into the camera exaggerate his Machiavellian intentions to destroy Othello by giving deeper meaning to his actions. By not sharing his true feelings with absolutely anyone in the film, he is able to be the soul manipulator, painting Iago as even more manipulative than the play. In the text, Roderigo says “Thou toldst me thou didst hold him in they hate” to which Iago replies “Despise me if I do not.” (I.1.7-9) However, this dialogue is left out of Parker’s adaptation. Instead, Iago simply says, “I hate the Moor,” when he is alone, referring to Othello. By only admitting this in private, he never reveals the extent of his abhorrence to anyone, keeping his personal agenda personal. The lack of true emotion Iago shares with other characters gives him even more control over the situations that arise.
Iago’s role as the puppet master becomes even clearer through Parker’s decision to use the visual aid of chess pieces as Iago plots to destroy Othello. Iago designates Cassio as a pawn proving how little he thinks of Cassio. He continues to rearrange the black King and white Queen chess pieces, implying they represent Othello and Desdemona respectively. By placing the white King, symbolizing Iago, between the two chess pieces as if to place a wedge in the newlyweds’ relationship. The use of background lighting from the fireplace exaggerates the air of wickedness linked to Iago’s presence.
In addition to Iago’s ability to hide his true feelings and plan, his talent for deceiving those seemingly closest to him under the false pretenses of friendship and loyalty enhances the sinister aspect of his character. Through the use of visual tools, the unsettling idea that seemingly irrelevant moments will be manipulated and lead to their demise is projected. Moments in the film such as Cassio and Desdemona...