The tale of an ageing monarch descending into madness, filtered through a Communist perspective by Russian director Grigori Kozintsev in his final film.
This monochrome King Lear has an epic sweep, which emphasizes the catastrophic impact of feudal misrule upon the country's starving masses. A commanding title performance by Estonian actor Yuri Yarvet, striking landscape imagery, and Dmitri Shostakovich's anguished score are the building blocks of this extraordinary adaptation.
Kozintsev recalls in his diary of the making of the film:
' In Shostakovich's music I can hear a ferocious hatred of cruelty, the cult of power and the oppression of justice...a fearless goodness which has a threatening quality.'
'I was full of admiration for Jarvet's way of walking. He moved forward with a sort of clumsy ceremony, with grandiose steps...Jarvet has a sinewy, wiry body, with enormous peasant's hands. He is just like everyone else, and first among other men.'
Peter Brook wrote to Kozintsev:
'I remember in your Hamlet and in your King Lear, your searching for truths about man's condition and your wish to speak through your art about one subject only: about humanity - no more, no less.'
Celebrating the 400th birthday of Shakespeare, Kozintsev's work as pertinent and globally acclaimed as ever.
Our presenter for this evening is Natasha Rubinstein, translation is provided by Ludmila Razumova.
Natalia Rubinstein is a freelance journalist and literary critic. She was born in Leningrad where she received her degree. Natalia then taught Russian language and literature and worked in the Pushkin museum on the Moika embankment. After she left the Soviet Union (1974) she became editor of and contributor to numerous émigré publications in Israel, France, Germany, UK. She was a BBC Russian Service producer for over 20 years.