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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars KING LEAR Meets THE SEVENTH SEAL., 13 Jun 2010
This review is from: King Lear [DVD] [1971] (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. This is certainly not a LEAR to everyone's taste but it is certainly the most cinematic especially when compared with the much better known Olivier version. The text has been shortened and altered but unless you're very familiar with the play, you wouldn't be able to tell. Once seen, Scofield's Lear cannot be forgotten. This is a performance for the ages and it deserves to be better known. For those not well versed in the play, using the subtitles is essential.
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