My interest for modern films is not very great, since foul language, explicit sex, and gory violence never entertain me; and the most movies, whether magnificent or mediocre, incorporate these elements as apparently necessary spices to attract the crowd.
Now and again an extraordinarily fine movie comes on the screen. The King’s Speech is one such. The title is a play on words, with a double meaning: It refers to the gradual improvement of the stuttering King George VII’s way of speaking, and also to the momentous speech he delivered on the radio at the outbreak of World War II.
It is an outstanding movie in the way the story is told: alternating between the speech-therapy given by Lionel Logue, the Australian who had settled down in London in the 1920s and had helped many shell-shocked veterans of the First World War regain normal speech, and scenes within Buckingham Palace where the conversations and conflicts in the royal family take place.
The movie unravels the slow development of the friendship that evolved between the king and his teacher who is a charmingly disarming expert in the matter of helping people with speech impediments. Geoffrey Rush who plays Logue gives a marvelous performance as the strict no-nonsense disciplinarian who puts his royal student through unrelenting exercises, ranging from the pebbles-in-the-mouth technique of Demosthenes to letting him scream profanities to let words gush out in anger. Colin Firth who is said to have stammering problems in real life is no less impressive as an actor, as the king himself, who is orally disadvantaged. He conveys very effectively all the frustrations, anger, and impatience that are natural under the circumstances. He respects the bond between himself and Logue when he insists to the Archbishop of Canterbury that Logue will at the royal family circle during the coronation ceremony. The rehearsal for that ceremony at Westminster Abbey is a particularly riveting science with a healthy dose of humor.
Other historical characters portrayed in the movie include Edward VIII, George V, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elisabeth (George VI’s wife). Every aspect of the movie, from acting and photography to scenes and dialogues was superb.
It is not surprising that ten million pounds sterling were spent for this lavish spectacular movie, and no less surprising that more than ten times the expenditure have already been recovered from ticket sales. Nor will it be surprising if later this month the movie gets Oscars for best actor, best supporting actor, and best movie. It certainly deserves these recognitions.
February 12, 2011