Saturday, April 4, 2009

King Lear

On 17 & 24th of March, my course mates and I watched Michael Elliott's rendition of the famous Shakespear's play, 'King Lear' which was shown on the US local television in 1983. The casts involved in the movie are the legendary British actor, Sir Lawrence Olivier and other magnificent British actors such as John Hurt, Colin Blakely & Jeremy Kemp. Elliot's version of King Lear was made for television, and it shows. The scale is small, the sets are cheap, the action cramped. However, Olivier's acting is something to be remembered. King Lear comes across very convincingly as a pathetic, deteriorating, crumbling old man, weak and defenseless in spite of an unseen past of terrible power and - presumably - ferocious cruelty. Kurosawa's Japanese adaptation plays much more on the terrible past of Lear as counterpoint to the present weakness and madness, this English version leaves the lost power and cruelty only as a hazy background. If this is a defect of Olivier's acting, or whether it faithfully reflects his views on the character, I do not know. But I think Olivier did exactly what he wanted to do, focus on the old Lear, his weakness and his fading away, as a symbol of human nature in general, and of his own advanced age in particular. In the final scenes, Lear appears shaven off his beard, showing the naked face of a very ancient man, not the face of an actor at all. There must be a reflection of Olivier's own becoming old and brittle and approaching death, on the deterioration and dying of Lear. And there is the weakest glimmer of hope, both for the character and for the actor, as dying Lear recovers lost love in the midst of destruction. Of the rest of the cast, the best characters in my opinion are Goneril and Regan, perhaps a little overplayed but very convincingly so, as the cold-hearted, scheming sisters. The Fool and Poor Tom somehow are not quite convincing. Gloucester is moving but a little dumb. Kent is handsome and masculine. Cordelia is pretty. The score has justly been criticized as noisy and intrusive. Staging is not always clear enough for comprehension of the plot. All in all, this movie is well worth seeing. Perhaps there are better interpretations of Lear, perhaps more adjusted to Shakespeare's vision; however, this version has enough merit so as to stand by itself. And Lawrence Olivier remains the quintessential Shakespearean actor of all time. 8/10 from me. =)

No comments:

Post a Comment