Metro Weekly

National Art Gallery offers Grigori Kozintsev’s sweeping 1971 version of “King Lear”

The Soviet drama is often touted as the best cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare's play

King Lear (1971, USSR) aka Korol Lir

Laurence Olivier did it in 1983, a few years before his death. Ian McKellen has done it twice in just the last decade. Yet among the greats who have played the title character from Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, it is the imposing portrayal by Estonian actor Jüri Järvet (Solaris) that many scholars consider to be the best Lear rendered on stage or screen.

Grigori Kozintsev’s sweeping Soviet drama from 1971 is often touted as the best cinematic adaptation, as well. The National Gallery of Art is giving museumgoers a rare chance to judge for themselves, offering a special one-day screening of Kozintsev’s Russian-language film, based on a translation by Boris Pasternak.

King Lear features the stunning black-and-white cinematography of Ionas Gritsius and a spare and haunting soundtrack by famed Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Presented with English subtitles, the King Lear screening comes in conjunction with the exhibition Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe.

Sunday, March 11, at 4 p.m. East Building Auditorium, 3rd Street at Constitution Avenue NW. Free, but first-come, first-seated. Call 202-737-4215 or visit

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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