28 October 2013

King Lear (Olivier)

King Lear 1983
  • Director: Michael Elliot
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakeley, Anna Calder-Marshall, Robert Lindsay, Leo McKern, David Threlfall, Dorothy Tutin, John Hurt, Diana Rigg
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Laurence Olivier  As You Like It, Richard III, Hamlet, Spartacus, Sleuth, Oh! What a Lovely War.
    • Colin Blakeley  The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Murder on the Orient Express, A Man for All Seasons
    • Anna Calder.Marshall  The Winter’s Tale
    • Robert Lindsay  – Extras, Absolutely Fabulous, Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline, Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night,
    • Leo McKern – The French Lieutenant’s Woman, A Man for All Seasons, Help!
    • John Hurt – Merlin, Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brighton Rock, Melancholia, Rob Roy, V for Vendetta, The Elephant Man, Hellboy,  I Claudius, and more
    • Diana Rigg – The Avengers
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: October 21, 2013

      In the opening scene Stonehenge looms in the mist and the characters move in and around the giant monoliths. It’s one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen and it sets the stage for an impressive early medieval – or even earlier, pre Christian – kingdom that is sustained throughout, ending again at Stonehenge when Lear and Cordelia lie in the center, surrounded by a ring of knights with torches. A long camera shot. The end.
       Olivier’s films are always visually beautiful and this one is no exception. Olivier himself gives possibly his best performance, at least in his quiet moments when he is simply a nasty but sad old man.
       The first half of the film is best. The entire cast is excellent in presenting a rather normal dysfunctional family (excuse the oxymoron), bickering over what families bicker over, inheritances and who loves whom most.
       Unfortunately the film doesn’t take the opportunity so tantalizingly at hand to show how Lear’s viciousness turns Regan and Goneril into the hateful women they become.  Suddenly they just are.
       The film also simply loses momentum in the storm scene and in portraying Lear’s madness. Instead of drama and pain he just shouts a lot with the rain pouring down on his head and Mad Tom just babbles frantically and we can’t hear a word he’s saying.
       Linsday is most consistent as bad boy Edmund and Hurt does fine as the Fool though I would have liked to see him as Lear.
       Even though my high hopes in the beginning were not fulfilled it’s a Lear well worth seeing.

3 * of 5 

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