Friday, 25 February 2011

The King's Speech

The much-praised film The King’s Speech is directed by Tom Hooper (who’s other work includes The Damned United a film about Brian Clough’s short tenure as manager of Leeds United).

Hooper’s current film tells the story of the stammering monarch George VI, father of the current Queen who had to take over the throne after his older brother Edward VIII abdicated. The film is apparently historically inaccurate at several points, in terms of the attitudes and actions of some of the leading politicians portrayed in it. Some of the things I found a little strange were the fact that, while George was shown as a bullied victim, his character was never presented as other than his disability. Thus the main narrative thrust of the film concerned his attempts to overcome his stammer so as to be able to speak at public gatherings or over the radio to the nation and empire at large.

Having said that I must admit this did prove compelling enough as the process was shown and advanced through the King’s relationship with his Australian (male) speech therapist. There is humour and pathos in the clash between royalty and commoner, deference and service, heredity and democracy.

Colin Firth as George and Geoffrey Rush as Logue the speech therapist excel. The evolving relationship between the two men is the key one of the film. It moves from initial hostility through various hiccups to what we are led to believe becomes a true friendship. Helena Bonham Carter is also excellent as the king’s wife. There is of course a stellar cast giving cameo performances as the various political, religious and royal grandees surrounding the reluctant king. There are also one or two oddities – a lack of servants surrounding the royal couple, the fact that they appear to be able to travel alone and unrecognised by cab throughout London and – indeed – at one point George angrily walks off alone from a London park to return presumably to his palace.

The climax of the film is George’s address to the nation as war is declared on Germany. The speech is stirringly delivered over the Allegretto of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and is cut to the rhythm of the music. It is an excellent illustration of the use of music to influence emotion. I’m not sure though how intentional the irony of using German music to underscore the speech of an essentially German royal family declaring war on a fascist Germany is, though.

In the final analysis it’s a skilful and intriguing film with plenty in it to stimulate debate.

No comments: