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on 25 January 2016
What a revelation! The vision, the emotional depth, the sense of menace - this is like nothing else I've ever seen in a Shakespeare adaptation. The quiet tenderness & strength of Cordelia (more acted than stated), who re-appears near the end, in a world incapable of accommodating her goodness - that, for me, is one of the greatest moments in film. Yuri Yarvet's perfomance is mesmerising .... and, I think, most true to the pathos of the original.

I appreciate this is not for anyone. It's in Russian, obviously (- why does King Lear sound like it should have been written in Russian?!), with subtitles. I was brought up in the Far East and have NO background in English literature ... at all, I had to read the play several times, with commentary, to get a sense of it. I've done that with the other great Shakespeare tragedies as well, but found King Lear the most compelling. Then, having watched the Peter Brook film adaptation (Paul Scofield as King Lear), which is very good, I was keen to compare this with other versions. I certainly didn't expect an adaptation from Brezhnev's Soviet Union to surpass it ..., but that it did. And discovering that the haunting, minimalistic score was composed by none other than Dmitri Shostakovich, was like an epiphany.

- To think that this had been quietly waiting all these years .... to think how easily I could have missed it! Stumbling across it was serendipity itself. Highly recommended.

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on 15 September 2014
It is 5 stars for the film but I think the DVD is probably only worth about 3. Superb and haunting visualisation of the play but some of the subtitles appear to be incorrect and there is something dodgy with the film ratio. When I played it on my computer it was like I was watching it through a letterbox... a true widescreen experience! We don't want the bad old days of pan and scan back again but there is something not quite right about the presentation of the film. Still worth it though for the actual film.
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on 14 August 2015
Although the acting and photography in this film are as beautiful as ever, the ideology behind Kozinstev's direction has aged. The focus was on the people whom Lear, played by Juri Jarvet, has not governed well, and who will suffer anonymously even as he and Gloucester suffer dramatically. We see the vast retinue required for Lear's hundred knights, and watch the effects of the French invasion upon ordinary villagers, forced to fight or flee. Almost another character in the film is the tribe of beggars and madmen at the edge of almost every scene. They surround the main characters and eventually provide a refuge for Edgar (played with a beautiful masculinity by Leonhard Merzin) and Gloucester. This focus on the masses, while occasionally illuminating, took too much attention from Lear himself and the other named characters. This version of King Lear is well worth watching, but cannot stand beside the beauty and pathos of Michael Hordern's 1982 BBC film, which was graced by Anton Lesser's admirable and moving Edgar.
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on 15 April 2015
it is difficult to read subtitles as they are a bit quick, but it is part of my course to study English Lit, but otherwise quite good
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on 21 November 2014
excellent delivery without any problem
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 November 2012
I saw this 1970 Russian, black and white, and largely faithful adaptation of King Lear at a cinema about five years ago and was completely swept away by its vision. This was Gregori Kozintsev's last film, and if you liked his version of `Hamlet', then this is even better. (It's a real shame that Lear has not been filmed as often as, say, Hamlet or Macbeth. But, then, it is a play about wisdom and growing old and would not supposedly attract the `yoof' market.)

Kozintsev's movie has an amazing and impressive opening sequence. And there are more amazing scenes later on, such as the progress of the king in line and his retinue across the flat sands. Castle walls are massive, enveloped in smoke and mist. Meanwhile, the medieval halls are lofty but sparsely furnished, and the landscapes are desolate, with leafless trees where there are any trees at all.

Lear himself is played by veteran Estonian actor Juri Jarvet, who has that something in his eyes that remind you of Klaus Kinski or Nicol Williamson. (Jarvet would play in the following year the part of the disturbed doctor in Tarkovsky's `Solaris'.) My one regret is that in this interpretation there is a lack of defiance - or, alternatively, of grave upset - when Lear is finally brought low prior to the onset of his overt madness at the end of act two. Instead, he bares the gait of a naïf. This works in its own way, but there was, I feel, an opportunity lost here. All the same, I particularly enjoyed the conceit of Lear's fool being seemingly played by an adolescent boy.

This is not a complete performance of Lear, of course, but the expurgations are small. The subtitles follow the standard English text of `The Tragedy of King Lear', but there is the odd (and sometimes unintentionally humorous) misspelling.

A word about the quality of the print on this DVD (released by a company called `Mr Bongo'): the print is not brilliant, as if sometimes there are the odd frame missing. This can be annoying when you are hanging on to every word of the subtitles, but please do not let this put you off purchasing what is a powerful performance. Everyone who loves the play ought to have this screen version in their collection, and the film is ably assisted by an atmospheric score by Shostakovich, his style here being reminiscent of that for his tenth symphony.

Alas, my DVD comes with no extras.
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on 27 July 2012
had to buy this for OU course on Shakespeare text and performance. It is a fantastic adaptation of the story of Lear and his daughters, a great study in the nature of madness and the circumstances that bring it about. Shostokovich's score captures the emotion and feel of every scene and you can see the influence the film has had on modern film-makers. Brilliant.
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on 8 November 2012
I've seen the film twice in the cinema over the years and wanted to own it on DVD... so I was excited when this came out. However, the quality of the transfer is awful... low resolution - you can hardly see the expressions on the faces in wider shots. A travesty. We should wait until another company brings out a DVD of proper quality.
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on 24 December 2012
Bought as part of an Open University course on Shakespeare and gives a fresh perspective on an alternative production of King Lear. Very enjoyable.
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on 18 September 2013
Fantastic atmospheric film - essential resource for the Open University Shakespeare: Text & Performance course. Second viewing meant more than the first (especially after the background reading).
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