Friday, 4 February 2011

Review of "The King's Speech"

"The King's Speech" is a remarkable film. Colin Firth, a bit of a heart throb normally, makes himself totally subservient to a dreadful speech impairment, without the luxury of any sentimental moment of victorious fluency. Stuttering is a speech impediment and disability and shown to be extremely nerve-wracking, attracting very little sympathy.

We are told that as a boy, King George VI was called "B-B-B-Bertie" by his brother and father. His disabled brother, Johnnie, was hidden away to live alone, and died out of sight at 13. His mother, Queen Mary, straight as a ram rod and draped in strings of Edwardian pearls, is depicted as unable to hug her son when her husband dies. Their harsh portrayal has been questioned and criticized, but it is possible that like many other English families, even today, the Royal family had a real problem accepting and integrating disability.

George VI was one of those people whose mettle and worth does not immediately show. He appeared weak, yet had fought on the heat of the battle (Battle of Jutland) in the First World War. His contemporaries found that his kingly valour was not in question. Indeed Churchill had great difficulty in stopping him accompanying his invading troops on D-Day.

He made up for lack of fluency with a keen sense of duty, and with a strong hatred of Nazism. It was his "duty" to be King at this moment of international need for the unity of the Commonwealth, even though he did not feel cut out for it and in spite of having married a wife with excellent acting abilities, to complement his shyness. Their family must have been quite traumatized by both his disability, and the abdication. It is little wonder that Elizabeth II feels that duty is paramount, having had it installed in her, from a young age.

My husband felt that "The King's Speech" reminds the British people of who they were: reserved, quiet, tenacious, dutiful, dignified and in spite of the odds, finally victorious through self-discipline. He says that "everyone should see it" to regain their proper orientation. We are now too sloppy, too badly dressed, too casual. Dignity is a reflection of values: an outer embodiment of endurance and strong character (think of Nelson Mandela). It should be exhibited and exemplified to us by monarchy. Oddly, what was once called "stuffy" is now a pleasure to look at.

I was delighted by Lionel Logue, the King's eccentric speech therapist, being inspired in his remaking of the King, by constant readings in Shakespeare. If one loves Shakespeare who loved kingship, what a wonderful job to be given.

This is a "Shakespearean" film in its themes: the anointed if disabled monarch delivering powerful speeches, like Henry V at Agincourt; the essentially royalist spirit of the British people; the power of Love, kindness and service. It is also postmodern in revealing Logue's desire for total equality with the King and portraying the establishment as often a charade.

For me,the management of a severe disability,in the face of evil, Hitler and impending disaster, through faith in God, Love and hard work is what really inspired and touched me. It portrays an enduring reality about life, which makes this a classic film : a film for "all ages".

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