Korol Lir (1970)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragedy, Period Film, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - Russia   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

There's tragedy in Korol Lir, Grigori Kozintev's version of King Lear, but it's more than the tragedy of a once-wise King whose vanity causes him to make a personally disastrous decision. In Lir, the tragedy is greater, as it implies that Lear's foolishness is bringing destruction not just to him but to an entire region, perhaps an entire people. This can all be found in the Shakespeare play, but Kozintev brings it closer to the surface; suddenly, the irresponsibility of the title character carries more weight, as one sees the destruction that it brings from a "macro" rather than a "micro" point of view. The director brilliantly sets this up at the beginning; before a word is spoken, we see hundreds of peasants moving through a stark landscape, seemingly at random at first. Gradually, however, it becomes clear that these peasants are all traveling to the same point, to stand outside the great walls of the castle in order to hear a proclamation that will have profound significance for them, even though they are outsiders who do not have a direct personal connection to the events. Kozintov also makes great use of Nature in Lir, as if even these mighty forces must be brought into contact with human foibles and follies and play a role. The director is helped enormously by the startling, vivid performance of Juri Jarvet as Lear, as well as expert help from Oleg Dal and Valentina Shendrikova.