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King Lear – Bbc Edition vs Laurence Olivier

King Lear video comparison King Lear BBC vs. King Lear ft. Laurence Olivier In comparing the opening scenes of BBC and Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, I believe that BBC’s interpretation is more engaging to the audience.

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There are qualities that Olivier’s King Lear has an edge on, but I do consider those as less important than other factors in play. The wardrobe and music of Olivier’s King Lear is much more extensive in comparison to BBC’s, but overall BBC’s King Lear does have better acting and camera angles.

To many people, the music and wardrobe would come second to actor performance and filming. The camera angles and choice of location of both plays is important, but in Olivier’s it features mainly headshots in the opening of King Lear and close ups of the actors. Putting the actor in focus it makes a strong impression of each actor’s facial expression, but this does not allow for background acting from other actors. In BBC, just prior to Lear disowning Cordelia, Kent is seen in the centre of the screen shocked and befuddled; speechless.

With the directing of Olivier’s King Lear, the camera usage does not allow for this. The setting used in Olivier’s interpretation was also unique as it appeared to take place in a Stonehenge-style location, but as special as it is, it does not support the atmosphere of the play. King Lear is sitting merely on a raised platform. Not what history would have portrayed for the throne of a King. Although Lear’s room appears to be wooden in BBC’s interpretation, it still seems to show more respect to Lear, just as what would have during the time period that they are portraying.

Music in the background is something that BBC lacks compares to Olivier’s. The music in Olivier’s play matches the time period, and accompanies the entrance of the King and his royal subjects, giving Lear, his daughters, and sons-in-law the nobility they deserve. Actors in both plays deliver the script well, but in Olivier does not play out the role of a king and a father well. Olivier’s reaction to Cordelia saying nothing is too inert for someone with that ego. The delivery of the lines appears to be a chore for Olivier, rather than performing his lines with passion.

In BBC’s version, Lear hesitates, and wonders for a short while before responding to Cordelia’s “nothing”, mimicking the contemplation that Lear would have undergone upon hearing nothing. Olivier dressed in vibrant colours along with his royal subjects give Olivier’s drama an edge. But the effect is not substantial enough to win over what appears to be rushed scenes with his play. With better actor delivery and camera angles, the opening scenes of BBC’s King Lear is much more effective at bring Shakespeare’s King Lear to life.