What’s in a name? When it comes to film titles, quite a lot actually – you need to be able to accurately describe what you are about to see, without giving too much away and at the same time keep it short. When it works, a film title can be genius, when it doesn’t it can be just confusing, thankfully such instances are extremely rare. When it comes to tonight’s feature, the title chosen was one of those all too rare moments of genius. The title not only reflects what the film is about, but also where the film is heading – it conveys pretty much all the information we need to know and does it in three simple words; The King’s Speech sums it up perfectly.
By now most will know all about The King’s Speech, the awards it’s won and the accolades heaped upon it; indeed we have already covered it twice on site ourselves. Therefore I don’t propose to spend a great deal of time in the synopsis, rather I’ll give it a few thoughts and musings before moving onto the picture detail to see if we have a comparable print to our American cousins - and even that question has already been answered if you know where to look.
One of the principle reasons to watch this film is the award winning performance by Colin Firth as King George VI, or Bertie, not just for his convincing stutter, but for the humanity and warmth he brought to the character. During that opening scene, when he is trying valiantly to talk to the crowd, with that mike picking up every stutter, echoing it around the stadium, you genuinely feel for him. Later, at the end, having been through everything, that ‘long walk’ to the microphone, again you want to crawl into the screen and help him deliver his lines – it’s a master class in acting. And yet, his most tender moments, describing the abuse of his childhood with a reflection of someone that has come to terms with living with disability, is delivered with such heartfelt sincerity it is little wonder that he won the accolades that he did.
But, of course, it’s not a one man show, ever the stalwart, Geoff Rush puts in a magnificent performance as Lionel Logue, the therapist employed to help Bertie overcome his impediment. The joy of watching someone, a commoner (as all those are without titles), befriend a king over such adverse circumstances is as entertaining as any single performance. When these two are on screen together it is electric as two performers give it their all, not in an attempt to ‘out act’ the other, but rather in an attempt to give the best damn performance as a team, and boy does it work. Stand out scenes must be when Bertie and Lionel first meet, their struggling to find topics to talk about, the awkward silences, the reversal in roles as a future king and emperor submits to a ‘king in his castle’. Then later, when Lionel oversteps their friendship, and finally the latter scenes practicing for the speech and their actual reading of it – “Forget everything else, read it to me, your friend” – is a tear inducing moment and one that contains more empathy and emotion than other, entire less worthy films together.
Tom Hooper, mainly known as a TV director, shows a maturity beyond his years in bringing this wonderful story to the screen; how he places his actors in the frame; off centre and opposite ‘over the shoulder’ shooting, disorientates the viewer to highlight the communication problems experienced by the protagonists on screen; only later, once the characters speech flows, does the camerawork become more natural. It’s a neat trick and an inspired idea. The story itself covers King George V’s death, King Edwards abdication, at the time a worldwide scandal and only now is some of the truth coming out, the rise of Hitler’s Nazi regime and King George VI’s coronation and first wartime speech (the speech of the title); all real documented events, all covered with sincerity; at a time when the Royal Family held power and sway over a quarter of the globe. It is fitting, perhaps, that in the wake of the latest Royal wedding and the genuine affection given from most of the world, that such a film can, itself, generate such emotion.
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