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The King's Speech - The Ex-Communicator

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January 8th, 2011


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12:05 am - The King's Speech
I went to see The King's Speech,with Colin Firth. This is the kind-of-true story of George VI - our current Queen's father - who was unexpectedly made King when his elder brother abdicated in the late thirties. He had a stammer, and partly overcame it through speech therapy, so he could make wartime broadcasts. This is just the story of that speech therapy. It's a simple and coherent film.The Director, Tom Hooper, also did The Damned United which I loved.

I am sure every review will say that Colin Firth is great - he really is - and that the story is affecting. Differently handled this could easily have been the kind of thing I hate. I can't stand dramas which imply that aristocrats are more interesting than other people. If this had been fawning over banquets and lovely frocks it would have been very dull indeed. But this story presents life in the Royal Family as bleak, almost like a prison. The visual style and the direction are austere and cold. I think it is an accurate reflection of the emotional temperature of the House of Windsor. England was a reserved culture, the upper classes were cold, and the Royal family were frozen solid. Horrible really.

This austerity also makes beautiful language - the BBC and Shakespeare - into something like water in the desert of the English heart. There is little music or art in this film so that the spoken word becomes the healing fountain that people long for. And this makes the deficiency of the King, unable to speak, more extreme. English language, poetry and oratory, becomes the only bridge between people.

And I think that the film manages to portray the culture, without endorsing it (or parachuting modern sensibilities into it). It reminded me a bit of a Japanese film portraying the Samurai class. You don't feel committed to the social order it portrays, but you don't expect the people to suddenly throw it aside, like in some spurious Disney film.

So, yes, a good film I thought. Not a pulse-pounder, but gently affecting. Tears to my eyes in places. I liked it a lot better than Poliakoff's similar drama The Lost Prince (about this king's younger brother, who was even worse treated).

BTW Here is some Pathe News footage of George VI struggling through a speech in 1938.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 8th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
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Yesterday they repeated the 2009 play which I presume inspired this film.
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC)
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Yes, looks like it must have. Different writer and everything. Hope he got a cut.
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From:korintomichi
Date:January 8th, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
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Hope you don't mind me posting this here but we are now editing a website http://www.kamera.co.uk/ and have a couple of Kings Speech interviews up there. Thought it might be of interest?
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link, that looks very interesting site, good way to get your books out there. I like the interviews. I like this from Firth 'I think the film can be honestly hopeful. If it was in the business of miracle cures, which Tom was determined it wouldn't be, it would have been disingenuous for a start. It would have been cheesy, and it probably would have been a terrible let down to people who have to face this. What it does promise is that people can reach an accommodation with this problem where it is no longer debilitating.'
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From:matildabj
Date:January 8th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
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Seeing this tomorrow, looking forward to it even more now.

Is his younger brother the Duke of Kent in Upstairs, Downstairs? (I know nothing.)
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 12:59 pm (UTC)
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He had a younger brother who was the Duke of Kent, who was a bit wild and died in the 2nd WW. I don't know Upstairs Downstairs, but if I was writing a show like that I'd put him in it. I think he had an affair with Noel Coward.
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From:matildabj
Date:January 8th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Ah, that would be him, then. And it totally makes sense that he was gay, because there were incredibly slashy vibes coming off the relationship between the leading man (master of the house, married) and the Duke.
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
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Having checked wikipedia says he was bisexual. Of all the things to read in on online encyclopedia. Ah, yes and it also says 'He appears in the first and third episodes of the 2010 revival of Upstairs, Downstairs, played by Blake Ritson. The mini-series takes place in 1936, during the short reign of his elder brother, Edward VIII. He is portrayed as a caring brother, terrified of the mistakes that his family is making.'
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From:cassielsander
Date:January 8th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
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Nice writeup. I also liked how they showed that everybody (the BBC guy, George V) have their own little magic rituals when approaching the microphone, such that the ones G6 adopts are just a more elaborate version.

Curious: Did you see a preview before going to see the film itself? Over here in the trailer they changed HBC's line at the first meeting from "What if he were the Duke Of York?" to "What if he were the King?" Can't expect us colonials to know the succession beyond the whale prince. And people might go to the theater expecting him to have 10,000 men.

(The line is restored for the film itself though.)
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I didn't see a preview, because I haven't been to the pictures for a few weeks. LOL on the Duke of York. 'Is it true that when you are Up you are Up, and when you are Down you are Down?'
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From:squonkfan
Date:January 8th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
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I enjoyed the film enough that I want to own it on DVD, and my library of movies on DVD is extremely sparse because I'm so reluctant to spend money on home media. (I would have enjoyed it more if there hadn't been speaker problems in the auditorium. We got our money back, though.)

Is it wrong that I want to see Bertie/Lionel slash?
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From:cassielsander
Date:January 8th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
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I think as long as you stay away from Princest you can at least take comfort that you're not thinking the wrongest thing possible.
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From:communicator
Date:January 8th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Worst film to have sound problems!

I liked the way he didn't stutter by repeating sounds, but used a much more naturalistic halting, stuck, type of silence.

I'm not sure I find Lionel attractive enough to really long for slash, but I think it could be very complex and raw.
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From:communicator
Date:January 15th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Here is a Bertie/Lionel slash story that I just read today and enjoyed

http://archiveofourown.org/works/152272
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From:squonkfan
Date:January 17th, 2011 06:28 am (UTC)
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Oh, that was lovely! Thank you so much for pointing me to it!
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From:tehomet
Date:February 2nd, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the review.

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