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  • King Lear [DVD] [1971]
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King Lear [DVD] [1971]

21 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, Black & White, Full Screen, Mono
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Subtitles: Greek, Hungarian, Italian, English
  • 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009IZR7E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,962 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

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.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Mykool on 3 Mar. 2007
Format: DVD
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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Burlesque on 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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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By philhop1@yahoo.com on 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on 13 Jun. 2010
Format: DVD
The great Ingmar Bergman never got around to directing KING LEAR, but if he had the results might have looked something like this. Peter Brook, whose original stage production was influenced by the "theatre of cruelty" theories of Antonin Artaud, transferred that bleak outlook boldly unto film in this stark black and white version which was shot entirely on location in Denmark. The extremely strong cast includes Irene Worth, Patrick Magee, Alan Webb, Jack MacGowran as the Fool and the inimitable Paul Scofield as Lear. Borrowing a page from Charles Laughton's 1956 Lear performance at Stratford, Scofield takes a quiet, smoldering approach to the character which clearly shows a man who is used to being in control so he doesn't have to shout. The famous mad scene is underplayed as Lear internalizes his rage and frustration at what has happened to him. The blinding of Gloucester, done from his point of view, is harrowing. The night Kent spends in the stocks, Edgar and Edmund's final confrontation and Goeneril's brutal death, help to drive home this bleakest of all Shakespeare's plays.

I first saw this movie when it first came out in the early 1970s in the wake of a rash of Shakespearean movies spurred on by the success of Zeferelli's ROMEO & JULIET. It was a slap to the face, a punch to the gut and I have never forgotten it. I always envisioned it as part of a double bill along with Roman Polanski's bloody color version of MACBETH which was shot on location in Wales and released the same year (1971). No one would leave the theater the same as when they came in. Try out the twin bill for yourself in the comfort and sanctuary of your own home.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Taylor on 22 Dec. 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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. I was however soon feeling dismayed because the film is shot in black and white and is very grainy and with very poor quality lighting. Also at the opening Scofield speaks in old English as you'd expect but mumbles to the extent where its difficult to follow of the plot. Not having seen King Leer before or read it I found this quite distressing. The story is quite depressing as you probably already know but the sets emphasis the tragegy and are, especially at the latter part of the film, full of dark grimy scenes with raggedy people dragging themselves around in the mud. The whole effect was certainly not inspiring. I dislike writing negative reviews which often attract negative comments and have since read the scope of the play in modern english and will undoubtedly enjoy it more on a second viewing but I would suggest this film is more for the Shakespearean expert rather than the novice.
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