Communicator (communicator) wrote,

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.
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