Thoughts after seeing The King’s Speech
I just returned from watching the King’s Speech at the movie theater. I was glad to see that it was still on at Tinseltown and that I didn’t have to watch it at Bossier Corners. No offense to Corners, but that movie needs the big screen and the dignity of digital projection. I can’t wait to see it when it gets to the Robinson Film Center.
I wanted to type out a few thoughts, more to remind myself how great this movie is than to provide any kind of review. I don’t think I have written any movie reviews on this blog or anywhere for a long time, but maybe I should do more reflection. Rather, maybe I just haven’t been to any movies worth writing about in a long time.
As one who speaks publicly, at least once every week, I was drawn to this movie with great interest in how the Duke made King approached his speeches and how it was that he overcame his seemingly massive speech impediment. The draw was not disappointing, as it took me along not just the current problem of George but back to his childhood and the causes that came from the horrible conditions of growing up royal. Yes, even royal sons can have miserable lives. His life was horrible and the film brings this out and reminds us all that all that glitters is not gold.
The relationship between Logue, the Aussie speech therapist, and George (whom he defiantly called Bertie) was beautiful and the film portrayed what it must have been like in as real a way as possible. The tension between Teacher and Student ran throughout the story and will continue to stand out to me as a near-perfect example of the powerful yet always tested bond of friendship. Their relationship involved equality, loyalty, courage, accountability and forgiveness. They were able to accept each other’s faults and shortcomings, thought not without the inevitable times of separation. In the end, each man made the other great and sufficient for their higher callings, especially in such a time as it was.
The depiction of England during Hitler’s mad march for the world was present and the chilling effect of people hearing the sirens of attack and news of the declaration of war was powerful. It was also good to see Churchill (I would have made him more rotund, but at least they kept a cigar in his hand). And the movie shows George watching clips of Hitler’s powerful speeches and hypnotic power of elocution. The cameras take you inside the heart and head of a good king, being reminded by a madman of his inadequacies and impediment.
I also loved seeing the family dynamics at play. The beginning of the movie shows the cold and official relationship between the dying King George and his sons, especially with the younger George, who at the time was Duke of York, behind his older brother Edward VIII in line for the throne. It seems as though the King loves his son, but not enough to show it, even on his deathbed. And there is obviously a strain with the wayward heir to the throne, who is deeply involved with a married woman and a threat to the throne. For all of the dysfunction show here, there is the contrast with the the younger George and his wife. She obviously believes in him and stand by his stammering side with great loyalty and encouragement (she reminds me of someone I know very well, her Royal Comedic Highness). I’m thinking of many a sermon illustration about what it means to be a supportive spouse, never ceasing to love wholeheartedly and bring out that which is within, removing impediments of greatness in the other. And George also deeply loves his two daughters (one of whom is current Queen Elizabeth). He is shown as a loving father, on the floor with them telling stories at bedtime as well as giving them hugs and affection. This is seen most clearly when he hugs and kisses his daughters after nailing his big speech. This was actually the most difficult part of the movie for me, as it snuck up on me and reminded me of a little girl who without fail would run up to me after my sermons and give me a hug and say, “Good job, dada.” I know that feeling and miss those hugs dearly.
The cinematography (or is this referred to as videography these days?) was brilliant, framing the periods in history and capturing the feel and emotion of a nation caught in the fear of Hitler’s rapid movement their way. The shots in Westminster Abbey were the highlight for me, showing the walls, floor and arches so full of history, ones that will talk if you listen.
And, finally, the greatest part was one that left me in much the same state as watching the first three Rocky movies (I quit after 3). It was the long walk down the hallway to the microphone to give the War Speech to his people. Each step was full of anxious tension as everyone in the hallways and rooms along the way understood the potential humiliation before the world and the profound challenge these 3 minutes would be for a stammering king. And then . . .
Well, I won’t spoil (I think I actually did earlier) it if you haven’t seen it and will stop there in the hallway.
I’m sure I will have other thoughts about this great movie in the next several days, but I’ll review these before the Academy Awards. Firth, Rush, and Carter deserve the best the Academy can give.