All the ingredients seem to be there: three young girls, a doddering old man, a couple of young bucks and any number of people who can play the Fool. Many powerful actors are in this piece and the casting is spot on, for whereas the cast excel in playing their various fractured protagonists it is these protagonists stumbling towards the unfamiliar roles they are asked to play in Lear that uncovers so much of what they and the play are all about. It is a film about role playing and how the parts we think we are playing in real life, and how the people we are drawn to are actually mistakes and mistaken. Everyone in the play seems suited to play a different role to the one they are assigned by the director or by society.
The limitations of the Dogme rules (no artificial light, no post-synching etc) work superbly in Levrings favour here. The very graininess of his digital film (transferred and blown up to 32mm) is appropriate for the sandy arena in which the protagonists are immersed. The way shadows fall across the desert and its inhabitants as the sun sets and the way the light sources are so inadequate at night demonstrate just how difficult it is to see anybody clearly such a major theme in Shakespeares plays. There is a particularly brilliant scene where the camera rests on the nefarious Charles (David Calder) one third of his face lit by firelight, the other, with its crags and crevasses masked by darkness.
The structure of the movie reflects Lear too, with people cast out into the wilderness epic treks through storms and the like and we get the sense, thanks to the almost tangibly organic sense of the way the movie is put together that the film-makers too are surprised by how much truth and power comes out of these forked beasts in front of the camera.
The ending is tragic, resonant with the sense of lost opportunities and a life lived in vain, like King Lear itself. The king is alive and kicking in this superb drama.
Director: Kristian Levring
Producers: Patricia Kruijer,Vibeke Windeløv
Screenplay: Anders Thomas Jensen and Kristian Levring
DOP: Jens Schlosser
Editor: Nicholas Wayman-Harris
Cast includes: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Romane Bohringer, Janet McTeer, David Calder, David Bradley,
Production Company: A Dogme 95 Production
Length: 95 minutes