For Reel

King Lear (1983)
August 13, 2017, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Michael Elliott
3 Stars
King LearLaurence Olivier won an Emmy for his portrayal of King Lear in this production, which should not be praised for its visual precision but rather for Olivier’s unique take on the character. Whereas Lear on the page can often read as threatening, brash, and occasionally frightening, Olivier gives Lear a childlike innocence, which suits his impulsive behavior patterns well. In the opening scene, Olivier teases Anna Calder-Marshall’s Cordelia as if she were a little girl rather than a princess participating in a royal ceremony—one might even argue that his behavior registers as flirtatious, giving the film an incestuous bent in much the same way that Olivier interpreted Hamlet as such. For its production constraints, the film does an adequate job in capturing the intensity of the storm scenes, with David Threlfall’s Edgar playing off of Olivier’s increasingly manic performance quite well. Lear’s figurative rebirth is overdone with a gauzy filter over Olivier’s white gown and shining, perfectly conditioned hair, but something could be said for the film’s unabashed forwardness in dealing with such emotions, whereas Olivier’s Hamlet is often obscured by the Wellesian insistence on artifice.

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