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BISR Guilt Group presents: King Lear

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

King Lear

Peter Brook, UK/Denmark, 1971, 132 minutes Birkbeck Cinema

Friday 13 October 6.00 pm Presenter: James Brown

By comparison with neoclassical tragedy, Shakespearean tragedy is often reckoned to be expansive and inclusive. It has little truck with restrictions of time or place by which neoclassical tragedy pares away the inessential. However, Peter Brook's film of King Lear (starring Paul Scofield) dispenses with many expected elements of film: colour, incidental music, and even certain categories of shot. The setting in a way adheres to the principles of nineteenth-century historicism: Brook shoots the film in a snowy Jutland where he shows us a primeval society barely surviving a hostile environment. But if his images are forbiddingly bleak, many are also blank. All that snow means we're often asked to contemplate a white cinema screen lit by white light. Faces and settings can feel as if they exist in different spaces. There is a modernist and anti-illusionist dimension to Brook's cinematography: a predisposition to disintegrate. Absurdism and the Theatre of Cruelty influence the film, which seeks not merely to translate Shakespearean tragedy into film, but into a form expressive of the disorientation and anguish of modernity.

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BIMI is funded by four schools at Birkbeck: the School of Arts, the School of Law, the School of Social Sciences,
History and Philosophy, and the School of Science. The University of Pittsburgh is also a partner and co-funder.

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