The Oscar winning film about a stuttering King lifts the heart and soul more than any Royal Wedding could hope for.
The Oscar winning film about a stuttering King lifts
the heart and soul more than any Royal Wedding could hope for.
There may be some
truth that here in England we take the monarchy for granted. Not so the case
with those abroad who seem fascinated by all things English with the imminent
Royal nuptials and the huge success of The King’s Speech, both critically and
financially. Indeed to date the film is the highest grossing English
independent film of all time. So how did a little heard of film about a
suturing king come to reign over cinema in the last year? The answer, like the
film’s premise, is simple; that despite the regalia and aplomb of royalty The
King’s Speech taps into universal feelings of self worth and insecurity that
remain utterly captivating.
Prince Albert (Firth) it third in line to the thrown,
he assumes he will rarely have to address the public which is a relief due to
his crippling stammer. However, when his father (Gambon) dies and his elder brother Edward (Pearce) abdicates Albert is crowned King George VI. His wife, Queen
Elizabeth, (Bonham Carter) seeing
her husband’s struggle recruits the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) in order to aid Bertie overcome
his stammer in the face of the birth of Radio and World War II.
It is rare to
find a film that communicates to its audience on so many levels. It was widely
reported upon its cinema release that screenings would end with a resounding
round of applause. The filmmakers were not there, it was not so much for them
as it was a sign of appreciation at a story so infectious as to rouse the very
screenwriter Seilder, basing the
film on his own play, finds a perfect balance between his two protagonists
Bertie and Logue. Bertie is trapped by his royal status unable to express
himself not only through his broken speech but also the protocol of being
royalty. Logue on the other hand is a impish gentleman, someone anxious to
tread the boards on the London West End but unable to due to his Australian, or
as referred to mockingly in the film ‘Colonial Accent’, when reading
Shakespeare. Together the two form an unlikely bond, a bromance so to speak
that comes to represent genuine affection.
It is not all
plain sailing though. Bertie is not necessarily always a likeable character,
although he does remain sympathetic throughout. As such Logue uses Bertie’s
anguish and his stubborn, spoilt child mentality to draw the man out of
himself. In doing so Seilder gives free reign to punctuate the film with
moments of genuine comedy. It is never forced but comes at all the right
moments. As Bertie says “Timing isn’t my strong suit”, clearly it is Seilder’s
who himself suffered from a stammer as a child lending all the more credence to
the self mocking that Bertie so wonderfully executes.
It is however the
drama, and Bertie’s anguish, that takes center stage and here director Hooper excels. Framing Bertie in the
cage like structures of archaic microphones communicates how this poor man is
utterly trapped by an otherwise revolutionary device. Furthermore, as Bertie’s
speech improves Hooper slowly lifts the mist that otherwise saturates London.
Aided by Danny Cohen’s evocative
cinematography the sun begins to slowly break through the fog only to disappear
behind the cloud of war that looms large over king and country.
So as the speech,
and Hitler, draw ever closer we are left marveling at three central
performances. Bonham Carter, fitting in her role when her Harry Potter schedule would allow, returns to something closer to
her Merchant Ivory days. Gone is her more recent quirk and in comes a character
so quaint and powerful all at once you cannot help but be charmed into
submission. Rush meanwhile is the kind of cheeky mentor we would all love in
our lives. While Bertie plays the petulant child Logue is the loveable rogue, a
man rarely intimidated or bashful he encourages Bertie, and indeed us, to route
for The King. Of course with The King’s Speech it was Colin Firth who finally
won his much-coveted Oscar. Many actors would be daunted by the restriction of
their voice but Firth conveys a plethora of emotions through the simplest of actions.
At one point heartbreaking the next a ball of rage desperate to break the
shackles that bind him. That all were Oscar nominated is testament to what a
powerhouse of performances the film offers.
Like a perfectly structured poem The King’s Speech is
lyrical and compelling. It hits all the right highs and lows at exactly the
right moments to keep you immersed throughout. While Logue conducts the Speech onscreen Hooper and
Seilder orchestrate a masterpiece off-screen.