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King Lear (1982 TV Movie)
Shakespeare in a Box (Spoilers maybe?)
30 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The acting in this adaptation might have been OK. I wouldn't know, because halfway through the film I closed my eyes, put my chin on my chest and just listened--I simply could not bear another second of watching King Lear filmed only in close-ups and medium shots. This seems to be a symptom of Miller's productions, such as A Winter's Tale. He adorns everyone in elaborate costumes, places them on a set made of plywood and bedsheets, then has them stand in one spot, ONE SPOT, to perform an entire scene as the camera holds them tightly framed and doesn't move. In one scene between Lear, Edgar, and Gloucester, the three seemed like caged animals, clawing at the edges of the screen with their lines. It's a play, for goodness' sake, and it should be filmed as one--from a distance, as someone in a theater might view it--or as an actual film- -look to Branagh or Nunn.

At one point I joked to my friend beside me, "I wonder if the swordfight will be in close-up." I glanced back up at one point and, sure enough, there were Edgar and Edmund duking it out with only their grimacing faces flashing across and the odd tinkling of swords occurring somewhere off-screen.

After that I bet my friend that Miller would pile the actors into the frame until there wasn't enough room to breathe, and, sorry to say, I was right again. In the final scene, Cordelia's body, Lear, Kent, Edgar, and Albany wedged themselves into a shot that would typically only be comfortable for one actor. The finale of one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, a scene that should be wrought with emotion, had me instead laughing and shaking my head.
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