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King Lear [DVD]

Paul Scofield , Irene Worth , Peter Brook    Parental Guidance   DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Paul Scofield, Irene Worth, Cyril Cusack, Susan Engel, Tom Fleming
  • Directors: Peter Brook
  • Writers: Peter Brook, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Michael Birkett, Mogens Skot-Hansen, Sam Lomberg
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Subtitles: Greek, Hungarian, Italian
  • Dubbed: Italian
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: UCA
  • DVD Release Date: 6 Jun 2005
  • Run Time: 132 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009IZR7E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,034 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Peter Brook directs his own adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy. King Lear (Paul Scofield), having decided to split his kingdom between his three daughters, decides to apportion the lands according to which daughter declaims her love for him best. When his daughter Cordelia refuses to flatter her father's ego with claims of devotion, Lear angrily gives the lion's share of his power to her sisters, Goneril and Regan. They soon abuse this trust, and Lear finds himself emasculated and powerless. Before long he is drifting into madness, as his former empire falls apart.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 95 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lear under a microscope 3 Mar 2007
By Mykool
At first, I was disppointed. The abdication scene seems lacklustre - Lear seems hardly bothered when Cordelia refuses the love test. He doesn't rage, and doesn't appear to be in pain. It is only as time goes on that you realise he has wielded absolute power for so long that he doesn't need to rage - he commands and it is done. His rage and madness come when he no longer has any power. The film is set in some bleak, northern tundra which is highly appropriate and evocative - it seems to be a permanent twilight. The best aspect of the film is the microscopic attention to the text - unlike many Shakespeare adaptations, there are no incomprehensible passages. Every word strikes home, especially in the second half when Paul Scofield's performance gives Lear tremendous humanity and dignity. His meeting on the beach with Gloucester is worth watching again and again. The fool is the highlight of the first half - again, every word is delivered with precision, like when he says "Does though know why a snail has a shell? Why, to put his head in, not to give it away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case." The fool looks away as if he has said nothing of consequence and Lear stares at him with an expression caught between laughter and cursing. No Shakespeare adaptation is definitive - if the text is important to you, rather than clever re-interpretation and production, then you'll be rewarded by this film. But check out the Olivier and Richard Eyre (Ian Holm as Lear) versions as well.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite film ever 16 Jun 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Peter Brook, one of the greatest theatrical directors of all time, directs King Lear, arguably the greatest play of all time, by surely the greatest playwright of all time. But those credentials alone are not always enough to guarantee that a film made with them in combination will succeed. In this case, however, the results are brilliant. Spare, harsh, quivering with life, this film is Beckettian in its imagery, and innovative in its photography, unified in its tone, and demonically vital in its acting. I venture to say that the other reviewer who thought that the camera moved about too quickly is probably jostled by bumpy train rides. This film is true to the essence of Lear as I perceive it. See for yourself, and go see some theater sometime soon, as well.
Another note, I've been searching for a copy of this film in America for eight years. Thanks Amazon UK!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expect the unexpected. 22 April 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is Lear in a completely different light from any other version, I think that much can be guaranteed. Whether or not you like it probably depends on how orthodox you are in terms of Shakespeare, but as for me, I find I prefer this version to, say, the much praised Michael Hordern one. This is lean, mean Lear, stark and brooding and focusing very much more on the psychology than on outwardly events. I find that I think of it as the essence of the play. It's intense, even intrusive in its psychological examination of the characters, and the title role is made even more demanding because of it. Only an actor of Scofield's calibre could pull it off, and he does so in what must be the greatest performance of his film career.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A record of a seminal production 5 Jan 2008
Format:VHS Tape
Peter Brook used characteristic boldness in transferring his controversial, yet acclaimed stage production to the screen. Filmed entirely in rural Denmark, the bleak landscape echoes the pessimism of Brook's intepretation which follows the gloomiest version of the three texts which have survived. Indeed this production probably inspired critics to take a look at the texts again and many theatre practitioners have since abandoned the view that productions need to be compilations of all three and view each version as a play in its own right, each representing a different stage in Shakespeare's writing career. Brook's version is therefore a seminal one and it is good that there is a record of it. It will soon be forty years since this film was shot and, even those who disagree with Brook's reading, should surely be pleased to see the performances by actors many of whom are no longer with us. Jack Macgrowan, for instance, plays Lear's Fool with a delicate balance between the abject underdog and the king's chief critic and mentor. This is a production that has peeled away all superficialities to challenge us with the most important questions on identity and personal integrity.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Haunting 2 Mar 2010
I must admit that although I have read King Lear many times I have never seen a performance of the play or a film version before. I got this one as I was reliably led to believe that this is arguably the best film version to date. I would not say that this was the definitive version, but it does come up there with something that most definitely should not be missed.

Peter Brook's film was shot entirely on location in Denmark and with the stark scenery plus it being shot in black and white this adds a haunting undertone to the whole story. Admittedly there are some more experimental shots (this was 1970) that some viewers may not like, but on the whole they do not detract. A lack of soundtrack also helps add to the film, making it more bleak and minimalist and adding to the general atmosphere.

Although when I read King Lear I read Lear with more passion Paul Scofield's Lear is more menacing. He plays the role sublimely, going from world weary king to madman in a subtle but terrifying way, and it is no wonder that when RSC actors are asked about the best actor playing a role his performance of Lear always comes off tops.

The whole film concentrates more on the language of Shakespeare and thus the psychology of the charaters can be better felt, with the bleak landscape and scenery this film is truly haunting and sears itself into your soul. Brook most definitely shows here why King Lear is one of the best, if not the best play in the world. I would recommend anyone to watch this and see this most haunting of tragedies unravel before their eyes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This is primitive but rich
Beware its b&w and everyone looks the same running round ancient grey moorland and shacks for palaces all with the same beards and fur rags. Read more
Published 5 months ago by GeeStrod
3.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars for film -- DVD loses stars for ration
This is one of the best Shakespeare adaptations for film because the director, Peter Brook, structures the play to move with the rhythm of cinema. Read more
Published 6 months ago by John R. Sullivan
4.0 out of 5 stars King Lear as it is
Very miserable, cold and dreary, yep this is King Lear and except for poor sound quality is very good and worth watching.
Published 10 months ago by kenneth dailey
3.0 out of 5 stars "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable..."
Each director wants to bring something new to his/her interpretation of Shakespeare and we all benefit from being challenged into seeing one of Shakespeare's plays in a new way. Read more
Published 15 months ago by VTFlats
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful production of Lear.
I think the Bard himself would be delighted in this production. The acting and diction are second to none. Superbly filmed with such care, the whole experience is extraordinary. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Scampo
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable - but not for the uninitiated
I came to this not knowing the story. I'm a great fan of Scofield in film who was so brilliant in A Man for all Seasons and the Train. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Peter Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars Goes A Bit Mad
No complaints about the casting, although Goneril is perhaps a bit too old. The sets are wonderful and there's some great photography early on but as Lear's madness takes over the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by lawrence_of_london
4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare, with a touch of Tarantino? Students only?
Not had time to watch the DVD all the way through yet (wait, read on!) but the segments I have watched are superb! Read more
Published on 20 Feb 2012 by Yetifeet77
3.0 out of 5 stars Another old Yank screws up!
I have Brook's presentation of "King Lear" on VHS, but when I saw it was available on DVD, I ordered it immediately. Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2011 by Jerome M. Hand
2.0 out of 5 stars Savaged
With names like Paul Scofield and Peter Brook, how could it go so wrong?! The frigid, bleak, savage setting (Danish winter) promised much, but the savaging of the text... Read more
Published on 1 May 2011 by Sognatrice
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