King Lear of England (Jüri Järvet) retires from his throne of power. His decision to divide his kingdom among his elder daughters, over the warnings of his youngest Cordelia (Valentina Shendrikova), sparks off a chain of events that engulfs the entire countryside. Lear’s final days are marked by dissension, internecine conflict and terribleviolence. Humiliated and banished by his daughters, the King wanders the countryside like a beggar, accompanied by his Fool and a few faithful servants. Driven mad by despair, Lear’s megalomania consumes him to the point of blindness.
One of William Shakespeare’s darkest works, King Lear receives vivid expression in this esteemed Russian rendition. The film’s use of widescreen and its stark black-and-white cinematography provide an expansive cinematic dimension to the tragedy. Working with a translation from Nobel Laureate Boris Pasternak, Grigori Kozintsev in the final film of his career, fashions a fitting twilight work; achieving in this harsh tale of mortality and power, a tranquility in form and assurance of vision.
Tone and text are interwoven with an artist's eye and a poet's ear….a strong contender for the greatest adaptation of Shakespeare's greatest play -- Film4
A commanding title performance by Estonian actor Yuri Yarvet, some striking landscape imagery, and Dmitri Shostakovich's anguished score help make for a spirited adaptation -- BBC
1971 / 139 minutes / Russian with English subtitles / Mono audio / 2.35 : 1 Black & White / DVD PAL Multi Region / MRBDVD040