Home > Patton Notes, See It > A Note on The King’s Speech

A Note on The King’s Speech

There’s not a traditional villain or antagonist in The King’s Speech.  This makes it very difficult for a director to provide a visual to for the audience to identify the “villain,” in this case a speech impediment leading to a fear of public speaking.  During the opening credits Hooper gives us the visual we need as he singles out microphones as the antagonist.  Through wide lenses we see the microphone from every angle and we see one seasoned speaker ready to take command of this device while juxtaposed is Bertie (Colin Firth), a man who shrinks in its presence. Or, it at least appears that he has shrunk thanks to Hooper’s flawless direction and Cohen’s beautiful photography.  Before the large, imposing microphone Bertie stammers through the opening of a speech before we cut away and there we have it; the first bout between underdog and reigning champ and the champ has flexed his muscle, defeating the timid would-be stammering king.

Immediately after the heartbreaking speech we join Bertie in a speech therapy session with a joke of a doctor who encourages Bertie to smoke to relax his throat and hold marbles in his mouth while speaking, an archaic method that hasn’t proved successful since ancient Greece.  The transition in tone from scene to scene, from dramatic to comedic, is handled with an imperceptible fluidity.  It’s incredibly difficult to juggle these tonal shifts in a film, to be both as funny and tragic as life really is, but Hooper accomplishes this with the skill of a master craftsman.

It’s established in two scenes that The King’s Speech is something rare; it’s one of those films you wait all year for, it’s the sort of film that can achieve the artistic, the intellectual and the entertaining and the emotional. It’s something I think Truffaut would have loved; something entertaining while historical, socially relevant and ultimately optimistic. Although I’ve read some articles that question the veracity of the script, they’re misguided and clearly missed the point of the film.  The historical accuracy of this adapted story has little affect on the success of it being told in cinema.

In order to overcome his debilitating stammer Bertie ends up relying on the help of the unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who becomes an unlikely friend and confidant. Their friendship drives the story as Bertie begins to show progress, and like any true friendship, they have tumultuous times that end up bonding them.  A friendship forged by fire.  Firth and Rush are sublime, playing off each other like two actors who love their craft, able to blend humor and pathos so seamlessly that you forget when you stopped just watching a movie and started to really care.

But I don’t want to just go on about the merits of this film (Helena Bonham Carter, the script, etc.) and it would be pointless to discuss it’s very few flaws (second least favorite appearance of Guy Pearce who I usually adore, and a few awkward camera moves).  I’d rather write about why my eyes were tearing up during the King’s final speech, that’s right, I can admit it.  Yes, there is this wonderful moment between these two friends, locked together in a cozy room seeing all their hard work bear fruit and yes, the score is the perfect emotional accompaniment but there is something much more.  I believe I was tearing up because of envy.

Envy what? Envy that England had their reluctant hero.  They had a man who didn’t lust after the spotlight or fight to get his voice in a sound bite on a 24 hour news channel, but one who had the position thrust upon him by birth, by the untimely death of his father and the shocking abdication of the throne by his brother (for Mrs. Simpson? Seriously? You’re a freakin’ prince! You can do better).  Bertie seems to be a man that understood the burden of leadership enough to know it scared him, and that’s what you need in a leader; a leader should know his responsibility is so enormous that it terrifies him.  That’s why we’ve heard so much about this film, it was released at a time when it can resonate in more than just the US.  I don’t believe I’m alone in hoping for that reluctant hero to be forced to become a great leader.  I want to see someone who is more concerned about what the people need to hear and not what they want hear.  I want to see a leader more concerned with working hard in his office and in the service of the public and not concerned with getting an emotionally abusive mother of eight to go on a camping trip for a reality show.  I want a leader who wants to be a leader and not a celebrity.

Was King George VI this leader? Maybe. Maybe not. Historically speaking it doesn’t matter, because the King presented to us in this film was.  The King’s Speech was entertaining, it was emotionally stirring and was so socially and politically significant that I was getting jealous to the point of tears over a King that Britain had over 60 years ago. Or he’s just the King in David Seidler’s impeccable script.  Either way, it all equals one fantastic film.

Categories: Patton Notes, See It Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.