The historical accuracy is strong on detail, but there's an element of artistic license, such as the depiction of HRH's apparent partial recovery at the close of the film (although the scene itself, in which Hawthorne's befuddled monarch rallies himself to address his subjects, is a joy). In the end, though, we really don't mind.
On the DVD: the widescreen DVD extras include the theatrical trailer, a featurette and a lucid commentary by director Nicholas Hytner. --Roger Thomas
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the multi award-winning The Madness Of King George, depicts the King of England's regression into madness during the late 18th century. Although King George III does some very odd things, who could possibly argue with England's most powerful man? Starring Nigel Hawthorn as King George, Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte, and Ian Holm as Dr. Willis.
This film also starred such British acting heavy-weights as Helen Mirren as the queen (think of the Prime Suspect series on the BBC/PBS Mystery, among others), Ian Holm as the physician (most recently noted for his performance of Lear, now available on video), and Rupert Everett as the chomping-at-the-bit Prince of Wales.
The drama was intensified by collapsing or conflating actual historical events (alas, the play and movie would have one think that good king George actually recovered his wits and ruled; the truth is more sad, that he had recurring bouts of delirium and hysteria until finally succumbing to a dementia that lasted for years, and thus the Regency was established).
Poor George has gotten a 'bum rap' in America for being the 'tyrant' against whom the colonials rebelled; history shows, however, that far from the being the evil dictator, he was in fact perhaps the kindest and most enlightened monarch in Europe at the time, well loved by the people, and concerned for government more than his own pleasure. Artistic, well humoured and well mannered, George was perhaps the last monarch in Europe who should have been so tarred by the negative history with which he has been saddled.
This movie gives a little insight into that character of man. Set after the war with the colonies, George begins a slow process of deterioration. Seen here are the inhumane treatments prescribed for such people (I wonder if our modern medicine with machines and contraptions will look similarly barbaric 200 years from now?).
Lavish sets and costumes accentuate the film to give a very royal feel. Political intrigue, disfunctional family dynamics, and social class consciousness all arise in differing measure to make this a truly intricate plot; however, much of the politics and psychology are more for modern audiences than are actual re-creations or representations.
My favourite scene has to be the one in which George is reciting, in the gardens at Kew, a scene from Lear, in which Lear is slipping into madness.
'Lear!? Is this wise?'
'I don't know, I'd never read it!' came the doctor's response.
To see the king slip into sanity so subtly as his performance of Lear presents a slide into insanity is a treasure.
The postscript at the end, a direct criticism of the royal family, in which the king pronounces that their main purpose is to be a model family (and the hint in the closing that the disease of porphyria, George's most-likely ailment, is hereditary) is amusing if not entirely appropriate.
In all, a fabulous film.
The King begins his strange journey along the highway of dementia by shouting obscenities and behaving in a shockingly unseemly fashion towards his Queen's gorgeous lady-in-waiting, Lady Pembroke, played to ice maiden perfection by the always stunning Amanda Donohoe. He undergoes a total personality change. His doctor is mystified by these mental, as well as physical changes, which are broken up by moments of lucidity.
The Prince of Wales see this weakness in his father as an opportunity for him to make a bid for control of the crown, and he rallies a slew of supporters. The ensuing palace intrigues depict the gamesmanship in which the King's supporters involve themselves in order for the King not to lose his crown in addition to his wits. The only question is whether the King will succeed in recovering his wits in a timely enough fashion in order for them to prevail.
This is a wonderful film with a first class supporting cast. The production values and cinematography are also first rate, and the film won an Oscar in 1994 for its art direction. The film also addresses an issue which did, in fact, arise during the reign of King George III. It is now believed that the King may have suffered from a hereditary illness of the nervous system known as Porphyria. In any case, this is a brilliant, award calibre film that lovers of historical dramas and period pieces will, no doubt, enjoy.
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