Pasolini’s Directorial Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Play

Pier Paolo passionately “demands” from the text he is reading a revelatory significance. We all have to learn to read like this.

Pier Paolo with a movie-camera is ready to let it open to him important truths. We need to learn to work with camera like this.

The 1st variant

The fact that the art of Shakespeare is perceived in history is represented in the film by the two additional characters Pasolini combines with the ones created by Shakespeare in his “Othello”. One is the puppet-master and the other is the garbage man. What the great playwright considers as spontaneous human complexes is for Pasoloni result of manipulation of human soul by certain conditions of life which make insecurity a basic rule of living. Permanent uncertainty in our human value prevents us from perceiving.

Shakespearean art existentially – instead of analytically comparing the characters of his plays with our life we transform them into idealized “puppets” whom we play with and whom we worship. The result, which Pasolini describes in the film is that Shakespeare’s characters as carriers of serious meaning are dying with each post-Shakespearean generation. Instead we are enjoying them as something like animated decorations.

The 2nd variant

The fact that the great classic works of art are perceived through history made Pasolini to analyze not only “Othello’s” images but how we understand them since the time of their creation. So, in addition to the Shakespearean characters Pasolini introduces two additional ones personifying our very relations with Shakespeare’s play. They are a puppet-master and the garbage man. Both are metaphorize what the viewers and readers of “Othello” for several centuries have psychologically been doing with the play.

According to Pasolini, instead of analytically connecting the ”immortal characters” with our life we transform them into idealized puppets, whom we can then play with, into whom we project our need for the sublime, and whom we worship as idols of aesthetic perfection. The result is that these puppets of our perception rooted in Shakespearean images – are dying with every post-Shakespearean generation. We, without understanding this, transform them into a kind of animated decorations, children of theatrical stage.

Toto plays Shakespear’s Iago not naively – as a treacherous and a deceitful person, as the personification of the very essence of human cunningness. His Iago is not “Iagoistic” by essence. He rather makes a decision to become “Iago” because he wants to achieve certain goals which demand from him to behave “Iagoistically”. Toto’s grimace here is not an expression of the character’s essence but a mask, a makeup (this explains why Pasolini makes Iago’s makeup so obviously noticeable). That’s how regular people become immoral and “bad” – thieves, betrayers, robbers, murderers, torturers. They need money they don’t have, they need jobs they don’t have, they want to be left alone by “foreigners”. They want to be appreciated, they want to get education without being drown in debt, they want to have a good position in their own society. So, they start to act out in order “to survive” and “to succeed” and they put on Iago’s makeup of a crafty manipulator to achieve it.

Posted Jan 30 2010 –    From Deconstruction of Shakespeare’s “Othello” to the Deconstruction of History – Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “What are Clouds?” (1965) by Acting-Out Politics