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12 - ‘A Wail in the Silence’: Feminism, Sexuality and Final Meanings in King Lear Films by Grigori Kozintsev, Peter Brook and Akira Kurosawa

from Part III - Critical Issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2020

Russell Jackson
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

There are three truly pioneering versions of King Lear on film: Grigori Kozintsev’s Korol Lir (1970), Peter Brook’s King Lear (1971), and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985). These adaptations not only represent the best versions of King Lear ever made but also rank among the most important Shakespeare films of all time. None of these films are inventive or subtle in their representation of women, nor are they sophisticated in their approach to gender roles in what is arguably Shakespeare’s most misogynistic play. Silent and obedient, Cordelia is in many ways the perfect Renaissance woman, while Goneril and Regan play the demons to her saint. These rigid binariesand the impossible subject positions they impose on women are the inventions of patriarchy, and of misogyny in particular. Of the three films that I will examine here, only one of them begins to challenge this disabling binary and the concomitant spectacle of patriarchy restored over women’s dead bodies.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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