Stripping Shakespeare – #1 Emilia’s Red Room of Pain, Othello

Date: 2014
Posted by: WMMoriginals
Cast: Sapna Gandhi (Emilia)
Credits: Directed by Ambika Leigh. Creator of Stripping Shakespeare: Nicol Razon
Duration: 2.44

So what’s this – fifty shades of Shakespeare? Emilia’s speech, ‘Yes, a dozen; and as many to the vantage as would’ from Othello, Act 4 Scene 3, is played out in some bondage setting, with a dominatrix speaking the words in taunting fashion to a hooded man, while another woman swings upside-down on a swing. Provocatively staged (but never greatly so), Emilia’s speech becomes a teasing taunt turned into practice, putting emphasis on the words “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall” – with this video’s scenario being the consequence.

This one of a series of ‘Stripping Shakespeare’ videos produced by an American filmmaking collective, We Make Movies, that brings together trained actors and erotic dancers. Series creator Nicol Razon states:

I wanted to create a series that was somewhere between Kubrick’s subconscious cinema and Reading Rainbow. Shakespeare has always been a love and stripping, always a temptation. Stripping Shakespeare will not only showcase the talents of classically trained actors, erotic dancers, and filmmakers, but also strip Shakespeare’s text down to its meaning enriching our understanding of poetry that is usually robbed of its naughty bits.

Others in the short series are Tongues, Tails & Teases: Kate & Petruchio, Taming Of The Shrew, Her Body’s Lust: Iago’s Dream, Othello (which makes use of archive film of Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones) and An Unlessoned Girl: Portia, The Merchant of Venice. They bring Shakespeare into the world of fetish, pole dancing, striptease and burlesque, and what is most striking is how well they are done. The passages from the plays are cleverly chosen, with the words spoken by capable actors with lip-smacking relish. The videos are stylishly made, turning what might have only been a tacky joke into something witty at least and insightful at best.

It looks as though a longer series was originally planned, and one can only speculate why more have not been produced. Shakespeare can certainly supply the filmmakers with plenty of suitable material.

Links: YouTube page
Stripping Shakespeare channel
Stripping Shakespeare website
We Make Movies

Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

YouTube page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

To Be or Not To Be

Date: 2007
Posted by: fenian47ronin
Cast: Voice by Tamo Noonan
Credits: Produced by Tamo Noonan
Duration: 2.12

Tamo Noona aka fenian47ronin describes himself “writer–film critic, journalist, novelist”. As far as the world of online video is concerned, he’s a producer of reveries into the modern state of things, often laced with passages of Shakespeare. His videos bring together portentous imagery heavily treated with Photoshop and Affect Effects, with unclear music and his distorted voice laid over the top. When it works well, as it rather does here, the effect is kind of a stream-of-visual-consciousness with jazz overtones. The Hamlet soliloquy is spoken with heavy echo, with images of cities, skeletons, statues, basketball players, armed forces, the Titanic, and Noonan himself, and a jazzy drumbeat muttering underneath.

To Be or Not to Be is part four of a five-part video series he calls Empire not Liberty as describes as

five “pieces of work” made in response to the war in Iraq and how rampant consumerism began matching the insane military spending…

So now you know. The other five parts are Othello11tamo, Rogue & Peasant Slave, Drop ’till ya Shop!, and Piece of Work. They’re not going to stop war or consumerism (especially if so few people have actually viewed them so far), but they do show the visual power of Shakespeare’s words, whether heard or half-heard, and the efficacy of using distorted images to portray a world gone wrong.

YouTube page
fenian47ronin YouTube Channel
fenian47ronin website


Date: 2007
Posted by: hdflopeck
Cast: James Huessy (Iago), Samantha Dickey (Desdemona), Claudia Tellez (Emilia), Nathan Hutchins (Cassio), Mike Thomas (Othello)
Credits: There You Have It Productions presents. Shot and chopped by James Huessy
Duration: 9.37

How do you take a tale of jealousy, power and racial prejudice in 16th century Venice and reposition it in a 21st century high school in Vermont? The feature film O demonstrated very ably how it is possible to translate Othello‘s particular passions to a modern-day American setting, but such a bold stroke of the imagination requires technical skill beyond the imagination and budget of the average high school English project. But that’s no reason not to try, and this is a lively and intriguing failure. The style adopted is to intercut often overlapping dialogue between the performers (the opening titles claim that the video was unscripted) with pieces to camera from the leading players, as they explain their actions – with the peculiar exception of Othello himself. The tone wavers uncertainly from seriousness to mocking, so that we get a vigorously conducted strangulation scene but then a silly suicide from Othello. Perhaps what’s most interesting is that Iago is the director, editor and lead performer, while Othello seems unclear what he is supposed to be doing (he questions how to pronounce Iago in the end credit ‘outtake’ sequences), redued to a mere cipher (his name is bottom of the acting credits). Iago the engineer of his own downfall, Othello the minor dupe – with a little more seriousness this could have been a quite interesting attempt at portraying the tragedy of Iago.

YouTube page


Date: 2009
Posted by: AMPPP-lifier
Cast: Patrick Han, Pearlyn Lii, Melissa Ma, Peter Yang, and Andrew Yeh
Credits: Not given
Duration: 0.59

Not much information is given on this schools project billed as being “Othello Trailer for Cordero’s Sophomore English Honors Class. Period 4”. Just before he is executed, Iago looks back on his life in flashbacks, to the accompaniment of melodramatic music. There is no dialogue, only messages on computer screens and print-outs and the four players shown at crisis point, before the video ends with the execution. As a burst of creative energy, it is not at all unimpressive.

Vimeo page


Date: 2009
Posted by: John Carson McCarthy
Credits: Created by John McCarthy
Cast: None
Duration: 0.54

A striking animated intepretation of Othello, without characters or any action from the play. Instead, and using the Maya and After Effects animation programmes, the filmmaker illustrates Othello’s turmoil and self-destruction through images of a house collapsing and turning into a prison. A few quotations appear as signposts. Brief and rudimentary as it is, this is a startlingly imaginative piece of work.

Vimeo page

the tragedie of othello IV.1

Date: 2008
Posted by: ishakespeare
Credits: Directed by William Mann
Cast: William Mann (Othello), Christopher Lynch (Iago)
Duration: 3.18

More intensity from the Chamber Shakespeare Company, or ishakespeare (see previous post on the Company’s Hamlet), this time with two video extracts from its stage production of Othello. In othello’s perspective we experience a flat-toned Iago tormenting Othello, who is holding the camera. So we witness Othello’s fevered despair by seeing it literally from his point of view. While the kneeling Iago is all stillness, Othello ranges about all over the place, the mobile camera incoherently taking in floor, ceiling, lights, darkness, Iago. The result is barely audible, and certainly not all that intelligible as the recording of a stage performance, but it works well in the form of an experimental video, where the world that this Othello sees – that is, the theatre in which he is performing – turns into a bewildering mélange of colours, shapes and indistinct sounds as his own world collapses about him.

Date: 2008
Posted by: ishakespeare
Credits: Directed by William Mann
Cast: William Mann (Othello), Christopher Lynch (Iago)
Duration: 3.55

The video’s companion piece is iago’s perspective. Now we see the same action from Iago’s point of view (clearly not filmed at the same time, since Othello carries no camera). From Iago’s eyes we look down on Othello writhing upon the ground. Grainy, out of focus for much of the time, with Iago’s drab tones off-camera, the result is arguably not Iago’s perspective at all but rather another way of looking at Othello’s inner anguish. It is more conventional than the first video, but together the two pieces raise all sorts of interesting questions on how theatre may be filmed, what it means to film theatre, and how the camera – one way or another – is always a performer. In the final ‘shot’ (the whole video, as with the first, is one take), Iago pans round to film himself in a mirror and tells us, “I hate the Moor”.

othello’s perspective YouTube page
iago’s perpective YouTube page
Chamber Shakespeare Company

Me Vs. You

Date: 2006
Posted by: BuddhaRhubarb
Credits: Created by Joe Boyce Burgess, for Blind Hill Pictures
Cast: Emil Jannings (Othello), Ica von Lenkeffy (Desdemona)
Duration: 1.26

A strange, borderline disturbing, mashup of the smothering scene Dimitri Buchowetzki’s 1922 silent film Othello with loops of music from an unnamed ‘garage band’ and sounds from the horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What is it meant to signify? Perhaps it is best not to think about that too deeply. Its creator, Joe Boyce Burgess, has created other such bizarre juxtapositions of film and alien sound, though only this one with a Shakespearean touch.

YouTube page


Date: 2006
Posted by: bhilldesign
Credits: Film art direction, creation, music composition, recording, and film editing by Brandon R. Hill, production assistance by NNU Mass Communications Department
Cast: Kirstin Irwin (Desdemona)
Duration: 4.53

Othello seen from Desdemona’s point of view and then put into pop video form. Apart from from a few reverse-view shots which include Othello, we see only Desdemona, who sings, plays piano, looks sorrowful, and gets smothered. Soft focus photography, strawberries and white sheets abound. The song is the filmmaker’s own.

YouTube page
Brandon R. Hill’s website

The Office Othello

Date: 2007
Posted by: smathew3344
Credits: Filmed by Stephen Mathew
Cast: Not named
Duration: 10.52

Just how many American high schools are out there where the English teacher has set the class the task of producing a video parody of the Shakespeare play they are studying using some popular culture reference or other? From the evidence of YouTube, there are hundreds. Most are wearisome and would seem to have little instructional value; a handful amuse or intrigue; just one or two are exceptional. The Office Othello comes under the intriguing category – a moderately skilful but ultimately quite peculiar attempt to marry the style of the television series The Office to Shakespeare’s play. The effort is praiseworthy for the accuracy of some of the parody, and for not slavishly following the plot line of the play. But the light tone sits uneasily with jealousy and having Pam (the Desdemona figure) have her throat cut with a pair of office scissors. So, more marks for inspiration than execution.

The same filmmaker has also made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Macbeth, a juvenile romp redeemed somewhat by its title and the comic use of dubbing.

YouTube page