Andrew Davies has created a modern version of Shakespeare's Othello. Eamon Walker plays Othello, Christopher Eccleston portrays Mr. Jago, and Keely Hawes plays Desi. In this version, Othello is a successful New York police officer who is promoted to commissioner before a very jealous Jago.
Davies uses the themes and ideas of Shakespeare's Othello, but he also makes many changes. Unlike in Shakespeare's play, Jago doesn't have a relationship with Rodrigo; his actions are almost completely responsible for Othello's downfall. Jago does have a relationship with Lou Lou (Emily in Shakespeare's play). In this version Lou Lou remains a good friend to Desi and never betrays her or steals from her. Lou Lou actually incriminates Jago by reminding Othello that Desi loves him and would never cheat. In the end, Lou Lou convinces Othello that he was wrong and Jago had lied to him.
Davies offers racism as a large part of Othello's, and the other character's, motivation. The film begins with the brutal murder of a black man by four police officers. The racism continues throughout the film; Jago makes nasty comments and is very upset when the “black beast” gets “his” position as commissioner. Some skinheads also threaten Desi for dating a black man. This brings Micheal Cass (Casio in Shakespeare's version) into the film. He is assigned to be Desi's bodyguard.
Jago's methods in the film are similar to those from Shakespeare's play. He pretends to be Othello's trustworthy friend and convinces him to be suspicious of Cass and Desi; Othello's imagination does much of the work. The handkerchief from the play is replaced by a silk bathrobe that Othello finds Cass wearing. Desi explains (honestly) that Cass put it on while Desi was finding him a shirt to replace the one he spilt wine on. Even after this, Othello wants to believe Desi, but Jago convinces him to have the robe tested at the lab for Cass' DNA. Othello kills Desi after Jago tells him that the robe had Cass' fluids. Of course he doesn't offer any proof and only admits that the DNA from the robe only matched Desi and Othello after Desi's death.
Jago is portrayed differently in this version. He narrates the film, so the audience identifies with him, at least at first. He talks to the audience like he talks to the characters and acts like a trusted friend who just wants everyone to know the truth.
The end of the movie also differs from Shakespeare's play. Othello killed Desi and himself in his home when Jago and Lou Lou were present. Jago also gets away with it in this version. Not only was he not caught, but he was promoted and got Othello's job.
The characters are similar to Shakespeare's characters but their actions and motives are somewhat different. It seems that Davies based his film on Shakespeare's play but took many liberties to modernize the play. The result is an inspired film that tells it's own story.