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King Lear (1971)

Korol Lir (original title)
King Lear, old and tired, divides his kingdom among his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia, youngest and most honest, refuses to idly ... See full summary »

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, (Russian translation, 1949) | 1 more credit »
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2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
...
King Lear (as Yuri Yarvet)
Elza Radzina ...
Goneril (as E. Radzina)
Galina Volchek ...
Regan (as G. Volchek)
Valentina Shendrikova ...
Cordelia (as V. Shendrikova)
Oleg Dal ...
Fool (as O. Dal)
Karlis Sebris ...
Gloster (as K. Sebris)
Leonhard Merzin ...
Edgar (as L. Merzin)
Regimantas Adomaitis ...
Edmund (as R. Adomaytis)
Vladimir Yemelyanov ...
Kent (as V. Yemelyanov)
Aleksandr Vokach ...
Cornwall (as A. Vokach)
Donatas Banionis ...
Albany (as D. Banionis)
...
Oswald (as A. Petrenko)
Juozas Budraitis ...
King of France (as I. Budraytis)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Roman Gromadskiy ...
(as R. Gromadsky)
Nikolay Kuzmin ...
(as N. Kuzmin)
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Storyline

King Lear, old and tired, divides his kingdom among his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia, youngest and most honest, refuses to idly flatter the old man in return for favor, he banishes her and turns for support to his remaining daughters. But Goneril and Regan have no love for him and instead plot to take all his power from him. In a parallel, Lear's loyal courtier Gloucester favors his illegitimate son Edmund after being told lies about his faithful son Edgar. Madness and tragedy befall both ill-starred fathers. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

6 August 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

King Lear  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Grigori Kozintsev made this version of the play at the same time that Peter Brook was filming King Lear (1971), and the two directors corresponded with each other throughout shooting. See more »

Connections

Version of Great Performances: King Lear (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best cinematic interpretations
15 March 2009 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

William Shakespeare's King Lear is a medieval morality play that weaves a web of complexity and intrigue based on a misjudgment of character and a struggle for succession. Containing Shakespeare's favorite themes: succession, legitimacy, and bastardy, King Lear has some of the author's most elevated poetry. It is one of Shakespeare's most difficult plays and has been filmed only a handful of times. One of the best cinematic interpretations is that of Russian directors Grigori Kozintsev and Iosif Shapiro's 1971 film, King Lear (Korol Lir), based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak and propelled by a dramatic score by composer Dimitri Shostakovich and memorable images by cinematographer Jonas Gritsius.

While Kozintsev does little to clarify the convoluted succession battles and internecine warfare, the overall effect is one of epic sweep and power, with the blindness of the leading protagonists being an apt metaphor in the Russian interpretation for oppressive feudal rule and its results on the downtrodden masses ("A generalized picture of a civilization heading towards doom", is how Kozintsev described his King Lear).

At a royal banquet, an aging king of ancient Britain plans to vacate his throne and divide his kingdom equally among his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. Before he does this, he asks each daughter to tell him how much they love him. Both Goneril and Regan are effusive in their flattery but Cordelia is much less forthcoming, telling him that she loves him but has no words to describe her love. To that King Lear responds, "Nothing will come of nothing", and disowns Cordelia, leaving her without estate but still courted by the king of France. Sadly, Goneril and Regan both proceed to scheme against their father and each other until the wheel turns.

In a sub-plot, an elderly nobleman named Gloucester is tricked by his illegitimate son Edmund into thinking that his legitimate son Edgar is out to kill him. Fleeing the manhunt that his father has set for him, Edgar disguises himself as a crazy beggar and heads out onto the heath in a driving thunderstorm. Lear yields completely to his rage against his daughters who have turned him out and, like Edgar, rushes out into the storm. When they meet, it will be on the Dover Cliffs where each awaits their fate.

Kozintsev's Lear is filmed in black and white and set in a stark landscape of windswept moors and marshes, bare castles and wandering beggars. Kozintsev, a master Russian director and contemporary of Eisenstein, who had been making experimental films during the 1920s, assembled a cast of great actors for the project. King Lear is the thin, tall, gaunt-looking Estonian actor Yuri Yarvet who fully conveys Lear's power and his growing madness and despair. Also Leonhard Merzin and Regimantis Adomaitis as Edgar and Edmund, rival sons of the Duke of Gloucester perform admirably as does Karl Sebris as the Duke of Gloucester.

Accolades must also be given to Oleg Dal as the Fool whose only job is to amuse the King but does so by telling him the truth, using songs and riddles like Feste in Twelfth Night. In a smaller role, Valentina Shendrikova excels as Cordelia. In one of the most touching scenes, "good son" Edgar, pretending to be the madman "Tom o' Bedlam" finds his now blinded father The Duke of Gloucester wandering on a heath in pain and leads him to the Dover cliffs where he walks him to the edge and allows his father to think he is committing suicide, but saves him in a scene of the utmost tenderness. In another memorable scene, after having been banished by both Goneril and Regan, Lear wanders with the Fool and Kent, a nobleman in disguise, on the moors in a vividly-imagined driving thunderstorm until he takes shelter in a hovel, only to find the disguised Edgar.

As recounted by Kozintsev, "When Lear goes mad at the beginning of the storm scene, this is the beginning of an absolutely new relationship with nature. I try to illustrate with this landscape a country which is not bare, not cruel. I try to show Lear himself as a part of nature, in a field of flowers. His hair spreads like moss, the grey hair of nature. Once man is seen as a part of nature, the movement towards regeneration can begin. Cordelia too has her own landscape–sea and a very wide landscape–with waves and seagulls. All the important characters have their own atmosphere and there are relationships not just on the level of character but between different aspects of nature." Kozintsev's King Lear has the look and feel of an epic in the tradition of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, and though it has been given a Marxist slant, it is true to Shakespeare's vision. As the aging monarch confronts the wrongness of his own decision, he also realizes how little he has done to help others. "I've taken too little care of this", he laments as he confronts the suffering of his people. Faithfully accompanied by his shaven-headed Fool, Lear moves from a monarch blinded by his own arrogance in misjudging his children to a pitiful presence who finally discovers his own compassion and ultimately evokes ours.


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