Monday, October 10, 2011

The King's Speech

By Sati. Monday, October 10, 2011 , , , , , ,
(118 min, 2010)
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler (screenplay)
Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter

 
Finding your voice.

“If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them.”

“The King's Speech” tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George ('Bertie') reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stammer and considered unfit to be king, following his wife's (Helena Bonham Carter) advice Bertie (Colin Firth) engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country through war.
What does king do? He sits on a throne, one may answer. He rules the country, answers another. But the most correct answer is – he leads the nation. And how does he do that? By speaking to them. But what if the king couldn't express his words and his thoughts would never reach his people? What if the king's had an awful stammer, preventing him from speaking almost all the time?

That story actually happened and as seemingly little as the issue may be, the movie shows how serious it was in reality. England is declaring the war on Germany and it's King's duty to inform his people about it, with proper reassurance, comfort and plead for courage and strength. But first “Bertie”, shy and limited by his own skill to speak must find his own strength. The film focuses on how, gradually, Bertie, thanks to the support of his loving wife (Bonham Carter stars in a shockingly delicate and subtle role, comparing to her usual work that is) and his talented speech therapist, finds his own voice. The techniques Logue uses to diminish the stammer are often amusing and always creative and the collision of the Royal Highness and simple Australian man is thrilling to watch, mostly thanks to David Seidler's witty and smart dialogue.
“King's Speech” also portrays the monarchy as often strict, emotionless and highly honorable institution, but with exceptions – Bertie and his brother Edward are firstly human beings and only then royal sons.. The film shows what happens when one prince falls in love with someone who most certainly cannot become the Queen, what happens when the royal son disappoints his father and that even though those people have to be perfect and reserved in public's eye, they have very strong need for affection. I liked how it shows us the background of all the official meetings and ceremonies – Bertie's daughters greet him when he becomes the king with proper respect but he, as a very loving person and their father, responds by tenderly hugging them.

As with most British dramas about royalty, the movie is deliciously subtle. There are so many tender and beautiful moments – the one that got imprinted in my memory the most is when Bertie plays the record Logue gave him and he discovers, that indeed, when he didn't hear himself he read flawlessly. His wife hears it too and she just stands there quietly, right behind him, overwhelmed with happiness and being proud of her husband. We're observing the family life of Bertie and Logue – they both love their wives and their kids immensely, we see private family moments and we marvel at those ordinary man, who in one case were born into extraordinary situation and with another born with amazing skill to help people overcome their weaknesses.
Colin Firth delivered the best performance of the year in 2009 with his heartbreaking portrait of a man on the verge of suicide in “A Single Man” and he is best in 2010 as well. I didn't think he can act better than he did in Tom Ford's directorial debut, but to my surprise – he can. His stammer is incredibly realistic – very annoying and devastating at the same time. Firth manages to be both moving and funny, strong and weak, lost and determined throughout the movie. He shows incredible range of emotions and skills – his Bertie is a very proud man, very respectful of his duties but also capable of admitting to himself that he really doesn't want them. He has a bad temper and he often declines offers of help, but he is the man enough to admit he was wrong afterward. Far from flawless, but also such an astonishing person, who is able to learn from his mistakes and be brave enough to face his own fears.

Logue is played by Geoffrey Rush, who is perfect for the part. Funny, whimsical and sympathetic Logue respects his student, even though his world is completely unknown to him. Their friendship is very beautiful – it doesn't matter how their lives look and what their duties are, what matters is that they are good people and in the end they found mutual respect and admiration, that as we found out in the end of the film, in reality lasted between them their entire lives.
I was stunned at the beautiful cinematography in the film – it looks ordinary at first glance, apart from making the film stunning, but it's quite clever and creative – notice how insecure Bertie is often only in the corner of the frame, looking very small and helpless. The fog, the cold colors, the hostility of the world and situation – the impending war, the inability to speak, the loneliness and feeling misunderstood is mostly shown in “The king's speech” in the images we see. They help us feel what Bertie feels.

It's not the movie as good and shocking as “Black Swan” or as flawlessly executed as “The Social Network”. But “The King's Speech” has so much heart and warmth in it, it is very hard not to marvel at that.

93/100

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