Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
April 2020

When I reviewed for you a few months ago Grigory Kozintsev’s unique and dark take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I had also purchased at the same time his other movie of a Shakespeare play. This one, too, features Shakespeare’s text translated into Russian by author Boris Pasternak, with a moody and fitting musical score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Like his Hamlet, Kozintsev’s take on this dramatic (that is to say, dark. How do you tell the difference between a Shakespeare drama and a Shakespeare comedy? In a Shakespeare drama, nearly everyone dies at the end) play is dark, moody, and indeed, more than a little visionary. I’ve seen a number of versions of this play over the years, but this one seemed more visceral than the others. As one earlier reviewer noted, Kozintsev translates Shakespeare’s language into filmed images, adding a depth beyond what is already there. And so it is that this month, Da’ud Bob reviews for you Grigory Kozintsev’s vision of life, love and loss, Shakespeare’s Korol Lir, or in English, King Lear.

Starring Jüri Järvet in the title role, Elza Radzina as Goneril, Galina Volchek as Regan, the almost ethereal Valentina Shendrikova as Cordelia, Oleg Dal as the Fool, Karlis Sebris as Gloucester, Leonhard Merzin as Gloucester’s legitimate son Edgar/”Poor Tom”, Regimantas Adomaitis as Gloucester’s scheming illegitimate son Edmund, Vladimir Yemelyanov as Kent, Aleksandr Vokach as Cornwall, and Donatas Banionis as Albany, the story can be summed up way too briefly (because there are always subplots and counterplots in a Shakespeare play) as: King Lear, old and tired, divides his kingdom among his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia, youngest and most honest, refuses to idly flatter the old man in return for favor, he banishes her and turns for support to his remaining daughters. But Goneril and Regan have no real love for him and instead plot to take all his power from him. In a parallel, Lear's loyal courtier Gloucester favors his illegitimate son Edmund after being told lies about his faithful son Edgar. Madness and tragedy befall both ill-starred fathers.

Good points: Well, first off, it’s Shakespeare! A lot of the costuming is of a period (though with a lot of furs added, which one might expect given that it was filmed in Baltic Russia). Much of the armor. The sallet helms. Real wolves. The carved wooden achievement of arms hung on the wall. The French king speaks his lines in French, a translator then translating them into Russian. The coconut chalice. The movie certainly gives you a real feel for what a king’s retinue looks like, with a hundred knights, their horses, carts for moving the King and his goods, hunting hounds, hunting eagles, and so on. As with his Hamlet, many scenes are shot without dialogue to set the tone of the movie.

Bad points: It was filmed in black and white (though, to be honest, that may help the moodiness of the film). Once again, I don’t think the subtitles are giving us the entirety of the actors’ lines. Knitted (yarn) “chain mail”. We see a lot of soldiers carrying crossbows, but we don’t ever see them actually using them.

Zero breasts. ½ gallon of blood. Sixteen dead bodies. Spur fu. Dagger fu. Sword fu. Halberd fu. Fire fu. Trebuchet fu. Cannon fu. Poison fu. Walking staff fu. Carts roll. “Poor Tom” rolls. Wheelbarrow rolls. Gratuitous peasants. Gratuitous stocks. Gratuitous wild horses. Gratuitous sheep. That’s one very crowded “hovel”. Academy Award nominations to Jüri Järvet for making one of the best King Lears I have seen, and to Valentina Shendrikova as Cordelia for being so luminous. A 46 on the Vomit Meter. Three stars. Da’ud Bob says, “If you want to get a real feel for King Lear, then this is the movie you should check out!”


Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

Release has been indefinitely delayed.
To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China's greatest heroines in the process. A live-action feature film based on Disney's animated Mulan. Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Li Gong, Jason Scott Lee.
The Last Duel
December 25, 2020, or January 8, 2021
Set in 14th century France, the movie is an epic tale of betrayal and justice, told from three distinct points of view: two knights (Matt Damon and Adam Driver) whose bond is tested by treachery and a young woman (Jodie Comer) forced to navigate the brutal and oppressive culture of the era in order to survive. Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

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