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King Lear (2004)

Barbara Flynn , Ian Holm , Richard Eyre  |  Unrated |  DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Barbara Flynn, Ian Holm, Amanda Redman, Paul Rhys, David Lyon
  • Directors: Richard Eyre
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002XVRIY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,633 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

This spectacular film version of the award-winning Royal National Theatre production of King Lear stars the immensely celebrated actor Ian Holm. Critics used every superlative imaginable to acclaim Holm's performance in King Lear when it was first staged. The Sunday Times called his performance, "Timelessly classical, harrowingly modern and unforgettable," and The Evening Standard wrote: "Holm's triumph is indisputable total." The Royal National Theatre production of the Shakespeare classic has now won the award for Best Actor (Ian Holm) and Best Director (Richard Eyre) in the Evening Standard Awards, the London Theatre Critics Award and The Laurence Olivier Awards. Lear, King of Britain, has three daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Intending to divide his kingdom among his daughters according to their affection for him, he asks them to say which loves him most. Goneril and Regan profess their extreme affection, and each receives one-third of the kingdom. Cordelia, disgusted with their hollow flattery, says she loves him according to her duty, no more or less. Infuriated with this reply, Lear divides her portion between Goneril and Regan. Eventually the two daughters reveal their true heartlessness and a tragic chain of events are set into motion.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bad Dad October 1, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Now a celebrity, courtesy of Bilbo Baggins (the keepcase to this King Lear DVD bills him as "of the Lord of the Rings"), Ian Holm was a great actor long before he was Bilbo. On this DVD he delivers a Lear on a par with the twentieth century's greatest, including Olivier's. But the excellence of this version results not just from one bravura performance, but from an intelligently conceived approach to the play, seamlessly executed by a competent, superbly chosen cast. Of innovative productions there is no end, but what a rarity, and what a joy, when innovation comes across as deeply authentic, rooted in the text and the humanity of the play, as if the new take had always been there, concealed in the text, waiting for centuries to be discovered. One can argue whether Lear should be presented as a "psychological" drama of broken family relationships, and I have mixed feelings about the approach; but if, as our leading Shakespeare critic maintains, Shakespeare "invented" our understanding of human nature, then surely this approach should be tried. And it works to perfection here. Goneril and Regan, the "bad daughters," evolve into monsters of pure evil, but along the way we see, via some remarkable facial expressions that play particularly well on the small screen, flashes of the agonizing pain and hurt that their overbearing father has inflicted on them. This is true also of Cordelia, the "good" daughter; all these daughters are visibly tormented in the presence of their father, though Cordelia overcomes her past through love and forgiveness. What keeps this from being the greatest Lear on video is that the text is heavily abridged. Read more ›
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! June 17, 2005
Lear is a play, one of several by Shakespeare, always completely owned and dominated by its lead. Ian Holm is one of those extraordinary actors who can bring tremendous depth and texture to even the shallowest things: witness his work in "The Day After Tomorrow" and, from an acting standpoint, the tremendously underrated science fiction film "The Fifth Element." I can safely say that Holm's presence in any film is enough to get me to see it and I can't say that about any other contemporary actor. He is always a total joy and after many years it's wonderful to see him finally achieving the stature over here that he deserves.

Needless to say, the mere idea of Holm doing Lear is brilliant. Good news is this production scores high marks across the board and lacks the at-times labored self-consciousness of the highly regarded Lear production featuring Olivier (The play can only bear the weight of one old King). Holm's portrayal of Lear's possible senility is not as overt and inevitable, he is more shown as a man who, at the peak of his power, uses that power to deny his responsibility for anything. He wants to be treated like a king without being burdened as a king. Making him out to simply be a senile old fool makes too much of a victim of him, especially to modern audiences. This king is old enough to have reached the end of his ambitions but not the end of his responsibilities--I believe that may be the core point of the play. Shakespeare needed Lear to be an old man because the idea of a younger man surrendering power probably would have seemed improbable, almost laughable, to his audiences without the introduction of a complexifying plot device, an external reason for the king to give up the throne. He'd also be handing power over to inappropriately younger heirs.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fool and His Kingdom are Parted May 21, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Though I love the plays of William Shakespeare, I have never been a fan of King Lear. Watching has always been too depressing for me. Even when it is well acted, it leaves me feeling progressively worse. This production has made me revise my opinion.

The story of King Lear is the story of an aging king. He decides to go into a sort of retirement and divide his kingdom between his three daughers. The catch is that first, he wants each of the girls to explain how much she loves him. The two older daughters are fullsome in their praise even if their motives are purely mercenary. The youngest daughter, however is different. SHe refuses to play the game. She is genuine in her love but refuses to engage in the one upmanship. As a result, her infuriated father disinherits her completely. All that follows results from this first act. The king becomes a figure of contempt and the older daughters squabble for a bigger and bigger prize. The result is a civil war and tragedy for all.

As in of of the Bard's plays, there are numerous substories. Most of them here invo;ve backstabbing and the alienation of friends and family. King Lear acts in anything but a regal fashion and his actions get progressively worse. You want to storm out onto the stage and beat some sense into him.

The title character is played here in a very refreshing and energetic fashion. This only serves to accentuate the slide into senility and childish behavior. The other roles are well done too.

This is a Masterpiece Theater adaptation for television. It does not have all of the lavish production values of a Kenneth Branagh film but that in no way detracts from a first class performance.

This Lear is a must for Shakespeare fans and is quite good enough for a general audience as well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars King Lear almost killed my students
I was excited to get this DVD to show my high-school students at the end of our study of King Lear, so it was really worrisome when we were 40 minutes into this 2+ hour movie and I... Read more
Published 11 months ago by S. McKinney
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic and true performances
This is a great depiction of Shakespeare's look at love and justice at the end of life. So be it.
Published 18 months ago by RonGus
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Since I am not an expert but a student of the works of Shakespeare I will only address the subject of the fool. Read more
Published on July 6, 2012 by C. Barr
One school of cinema says you start a scene in the middle and end it before the action ends. This we see here. Shakespeare snipped. Read more
Published on February 11, 2009 by C. Scanlon
1.0 out of 5 stars Missing Close Captioning
Since my hearing is pretty bad - even with hearing aids - I depend on sub-titles and/or close captioning. Read more
Published on December 24, 2008 by P. Hampel
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Holm did it First
Long before Ian McKellan bared his bod on the stage as King Lear, Ian Holm did it in this production. Read more
Published on October 2, 2008 by Ramona Merrifield
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific
When I read that Lear would be played by Ian Holm, I was shocked.

Ian Holm??????????? That tiny man who always plays mousy nebbishes?

Bilbo Baggins???? Read more
Published on January 24, 2008 by P. Schumacher
4.0 out of 5 stars Ion Holm's Great
King Lear is a difficult part because of the old age of Lear. The energy that Ion Holm put into this part is outstanding. Great preformances in all of the cast.
Published on October 11, 2007 by Firl M. Green
2.0 out of 5 stars No Nuance
This is a production totally without nuance and its owes that to the bellowing of Ian Holm. Holm as Lear bellows at the beginning. he bellows in the middle. Read more
Published on April 15, 2007 by Tom Gray
3.0 out of 5 stars King Lear by Richard Eyre
King Lear directed by Richard Eyre was one play based on Shakespeare's King Lear. Richard Eyre tried to put more focus on the characters and what happened in the original play,... Read more
Published on September 28, 2006
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