96 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Lear under a microscope,
This review is from: King Lear [DVD]  (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.