The King's Speech
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The King’s Speech is the tale of Elizabeth II's father and his remarkable friendship with maverick speech therapist Lionel Logue. Fascinating, moving and often humourous it charts the personal relationship that developed between England's reluctant King George VI, plagued by a nervous stammer, and his irreverent Australian speech therapist.
As the second son of George V, Prince Albert "Bertie" was not expected to ascend to the throne, but when his brother Edward abdicates to marry American Wallis Simpson, Bertie, as his successor, is crowned King George VI.
George becomes King as radio is taking off as a mass medium and the Second World War looms. Thrust into the international spotlight he must speak not only to the nation but to the people of the British Empire, across the world. His wife, Queen Elizabeth - the future Queen Mother - is tireless in her belief in him. Having tried all the traditional doctors she engages unorthodox outsider, Logue, to help him find a voice that can inspire a nation on the brink of war.
Stills from The King’s Speech (Click for larger images)
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Winner of the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, and BAFTAs for Best Film, Best British Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Music.
"Colin Firth is terrific: witty, intelligent, understated and affecting"
"Firth's finest hour"..."Excellently acted, beautifully written, and thrillingly upbeat"
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The film The King’s Speech written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper – a very insignificant personal incident per se, treats the stammer of Prince Albert or “Bertie” (Colin Firth), the care of his wife, Elizabeth Bowes Lyons (Helena Bonham Carter), a Lady by birth but still considered by traditionalists as a commoner, and their family, in contrast to the disregarding unsympathetic manner of his father, the traditionalist, disciplinarian George V (Michael Gambon), the coldness of his mother, Queen Mary of Teck (Claire Bloom), the egotistic attitude of his elder very vain and modern pin-up brother, David (Guy Pearce), heir to the throne, and the commitment of the untrained Australian speech therapist, and failed actor Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), working from the poor side of Harley Street, trying to help his patient realise where his personal weaknesses stem from before prescribing physical and psychological remedies for his rehabilitation with growing self confidence, satisfaction, and to greater normality. The feeling of insecurity increased on the death of the monarch, his successor, Edward VIII’s then involved in the unacceptable scandalous affair with the twice divorced US Wallis Simpson, wishing to make her his queen; the Abdication, and on his own accession the strong responsible sense of being seen as incapable, unworthy to carry out successfully that which was expected, becoming “George the Stammerer” following in the footsteps of another King George, “Mad King George” III The Madness Of King George [DVD], so tarnishing the image of the monarchy, and in turn of Britain, perhaps even causing his own replacement by a Regency in the hectic days leading up to the Second World War. The memory of George VI standing by Churchill in leading the country through the dark days of 1940-42 to victory, in 1945, consequently overlooks what did not arise, but what may have occurred due to the presence of Logue.
The film presents the classical lives, customs, and habits of the different social classes: the insular Royals, the deference of the worried middle classes: the Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang (Derek Jacobi), Prime Minister Baldwin (Anthony Andrews) and members of his government, and the more open, though equally respectful outsiders from distant colonies down under; how each groups treated one another; the irritated hostility and snobbery portrayed towards the “more democratic” outsider as less civil and conforming to ways of the mother country, whereas the Duke of York’s family being the most courageous and willing to try to accept change – beginning if not immediately by recognising an equal doctor-patient relationship, each operating to the other on first name principles as suggested by the friendly, but principled fair minded therapist.
Critics using their post Second World War norms have misinterpreted the Duchess’ response at the first meeting of Logue as of “shyness” or “snobbery”; it was instead her instant humane behaviour of making the “colonial” feel less embarrassed in his own clinic on learning that the “Johnsons” were none other than Royals. Bonham Carter did a excellent performance, though rather than using Emily Watson as in A Royal Night Out had she worn a black wig her resemblance would have been much similar to the future Queen Elizabeth in the mid 1920s and 30s A Royal Night Out [DVD] .
Firth mastered the future king’s tension, hesitant halting stutter to a key, and the ever presence of the microphone and red light rather than the anger of his father imploring him to “get it out”, or his elder brother’s teasing appears the primary object of fear, panic, and sweat. He is unaware that his father believes that despite starting his journey loaded with many tiresome disadvantages, Bertie is surprisingly prized, with the assistance of the warm reassurance of Elizabeth, as the strongest, and not the weakest of the family or “firm”; in contrast the boy born and trained for kingship, Edward VIII, has remained a child, and in one scene at Christmas acts as the helpless lapdog to his domineering painted goddess who flaunts her self-styled role by taking over the running of his party. Elizabeth and Bertie, entrenched in protocol and common courtesy, ignore the aura of this foreigner, are depicted as snobs, giving the worried Baldwin a hope for normality post Edward.
The bond of the relationship between Bertie and Lionel survives because both need one another, and despite regular angry explosions, and one rude emotional outburst, Bertie shows his strength as a man by apologising to his therapist, and Lionel admits of perhaps overstepping his mark even on neutral ground respect to one who still is a Royal and hopes they can continue to work normally together as they previously had during their previous friendly working relationship. Such normality and friendship did resume beyond the period of work at home during the first meeting of the two wives, and then the King. Mrs Myrtle Logue (Jennifer Ehle) promptly invites the guests to lunch, who save the unprepared Logues’ face by inventing other commitments. The film ends quickly at the outbreak of War, in September 1939, at Buckingham Palace when Bertie’s first wartime speech receives a resounding success from the invited guests, and even those, like Archbishop Lang, who had earlier indicated his fears of the abilities of the unqualified, untried Australian – it is not clear if he questions his professionalism because he has no official training or because he is a “colonial”, are in the end forced to recognise Lionel Logue’s worthy lasting achievements. Even if that had not occurred Bertie and Elizabeth never forgot the work done, and in 1944 the first time when the King allowed Lionel time off with his family at Christmas, he received his reward becoming Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Certain Americans who love films of happy families with one or two dogs, where the main protagonist overcomes all struggles, will welcome viewing this product at any time of the year. Anti-monarchists on the contrary will find this a waste of time, of effort, of good acting and good actors, especially as after 1945 the country was still run by the same traditional ruling classes. Besides, as Lionel would be the first to stress that if trained specialists busy themselves filling their patient’s mouths with marbles or encouraging smoking to relax the lungs, they are simply idiots, and knighting them for their deeds or misdeeds, merely confirms their idiocy, if these same idiots continue to run professions British society won’t have moved forward despite all the casualties, sufferance, and losses of a long six year war. Others, myself included, would question the order of the historical correctness of the events, with Winston Churchill (who in this film Timothy Spall looks like a bumbling drunk warthog) being pro Edward VIII during the Abdication being completely ignored, that Baldwin, Chamberlain, and Bertie himself were all appeasers until September 1939, and he distrusted Churchill long after becoming Prime Minister in May 1940 George VI: The Dutiful King.
On the other hand, this DVD has many special features which will interest both cinema buffs and amateur or professional historians, and will clear up any historical mix-ups. Firstly, it contains a second copy of the film with commentary from the Anglo-Australian director. He is particularly interested in letting contemporary Britons know how members of the British Dependencies – especially Australians were considered in the mother country. The “Toffs” were not necessary the Royals, but the middling classes. Equally, it was essential to inform modern Australians, now the majority no longer white from the home country or from Europe, but from Asia, how celebrity Australians of the past – of the Douglas Jardine, Bob Wyatt, and Donald Bradman cricket Bodyline ilk, behaved. These were quite different from Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, and the Chappell brothers who joined the Kerry Packer circus Howzat! Kerry Packer's War [DVD].
Secondly, it has short interviews with the cast in particular with Firth and Bonham Carter about the making of the product, and what was learnt when partaking in the play. Third, there is an interview with Lionel Logue’s grandson, Mark, co-author of the accompanying book based on Lionel’s diaries, who explained why the film took so many years to make after the deaths of both George VI, and his wife Queen Elizabeth The King's Speech: Based on the Recently Discovered Diaries of Lionel Logue. Fourth, and finally, there are two recordings: the first wartime speech in December 1939, so it is possible to compare Firth’s rendition to that of the King; the second recording is the first peacetime speech in May 1945 incorrectly used in A Royal Night Out as broadcast on VE Night, when in reality it was made for Pathé on May 14th almost a week later.
The film has a good story, generally well crafted, fairly historically acceptable, and the DVD is good value for money. For once, working together with the toffy-nose Poms, the Aussies scored a major hit: good for Australia, Britain, and all film goers.
This movie is not just another pompous and therefore quite irritating, costume drama. In fact, it is one of the greatest achievements in the history of the British film industry, that rightly deserves all the awards and accolades it has received.
Neither have I paid much attention to the director Tom Hooper until I saw this film. He directs the movie with an astounding virtuosity that puts him on a par with the greatest masters of the trade. He exacts not just brilliant, but unforgettable performances from all his cast. Perfectly crafted with harmonious contributions from every department, this is a movie experience like none other.
Underlying the very British humour and the inevitable pomp of a film of this genre, and therefore, making this film appreciable to even those who hate the very concept of royalty, there is the heart numbing, human drama of a family which has been centre stage in a centuries old circus that imprisons, constrains, grooms and showcases its performers in a brutal and never ceasing, medieval ritual. While, the tragic death of Princess Diana brought about a little, but much needed relaxation to the stuck-up attitudes of our royals, the family remains to be the robotic performers they have always been, an embarrassing reflection of how unwilling the British are to embrace change.
The reason why this film is a great achievement is that it unflinchingly emphasises the human suffering behind the grandiose exterior of our royalty, which in a modern democracy amounts to nothing more than a tourist attraction to say the least. As the Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle often retorts, ‘we should convert the Buckingham Palace into a theme park like Disney Land and make some real money’!