Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #14 -- KING LEAR directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Plot:

King Lear is old and tired of running things. So, he decides to split up his kingdom amongst his three daughters. Not a bad idea until he decides that the portions will be decided based upon who loves him most. Sweet Cordelia can’t play the flattery game, so she gets jack squat, while the two power-hungry older sisters split up the rest. Lear soon finds that a king who has given up his power is . . . well . . . powerless. The two older sisters don’t even bother to send a thank-you card and conspire to render Lear irrelevant. The once mighty monarch is left to wander the countryside with his know-it-all court jester and (quite understandably) quickly loses touch with sanity.

Why Jodorowsky?

The first question to answer here is whether or not Jodorowsky can really be considered an ‘active’ director. He’s well into his 70's and hasn’t released a major film in about 15 years. There’s been talk about him working on a sequel to the cult classic El Topo, but as best as I can tell, this is being held up in a squabble over who owns the rights to the El Topo characters. Since Jodorowsky is alive and seems to have the desire to make a film, even though he’s having trouble doing so, I’m going to consider him active for the purposes of this exercise. If he is unable to go forward with his El Topo sequel, I humbly suggest King Lear instead. In choosing a director to adapt this play, I was very conscious of trying to choose someone who would make a very different film than Kurosawa’s masterpiece Ran. I think it’s safe to say that a Jodorowsky Lear would be quite a different experience altogether. It may come as something of a surprise that I’m placing one of the greatest pieces of literature in the English language in the hands of a man who is essentially a surrealist, but the drama of King Lear exists in a world that has always seemed to me to be at least one step removed from reality. Maybe it’s the character of the Fool who dispenses wisdom in the form of smart-alecky riddles. Maybe it’s Edgar who goes in disguise as a half-crazed nature boy in order to watch over Lear. Maybe it’s the violence that borders on absurdity as Gloucester has his eyes plucked out before our very eyes in a lovely bit of grand guignol. Whatever it is, I think it’s intentional and I think it’s Shakespeare’s attempt to put the viewer off-guard and simulate the strange haze in which Lear suddenly finds himself. Jodorowsky is at the age now that he could not only direct, but play Lear. With El Topo,and later Santa Sangre, he proved that he can construct fascinatingly strange images, characters and situations that haunt the viewer and stimulate the mind. Not only that, but there is something about the grandiosity of his efforts that seems appropriate for Lear. El Topo had the quality of a myth from a universe similar to (but not quite the same as) our own. I’d like to see a Lear that gives me the same sensation. Lear is a big, big play and it needs a director that thinks big. Jodorowsky is that man, I think. It would most certainly not be a Lear for everyone, but hey, you’ve always got Ran to fall back on.

Jodorowsky films I have seen:

1. The Holy Mountain ****
2. Santa Sangre ****
3. El Topo ***1/2
4. Fando and Lis ***


Post a Comment

<< Home