Friday, March 04, 2011

The King's Speech

I finally got to go see The King's Speech in the theatre this week. (I believe it was the last day of the showing in the local cinema.) The King's Speech was a relatively low budget film from England, which chronicled King George VI's general speech impediment.

Being the second in line for the throne, George VI's stuttering was not a major national problem as he was unlikely to ever be king. He was largely a wall flower for most of his early life in the Royal family. His speech problems were largely kept secret in the press, and he was more than happy to not speak in public.

George VI, of course, was the second son of King George V. George V's older son, Edward VIII, notoriously left the throne so he could marry a twice divorced American woman. (He was also secretly suspected of being a German sympathizer, which added fuel to the fire of getting him to leave the throne, though that is in no way addressed in the film.) Suddenly, the stuttering George V found himself king in a world governed by radio and quickly going to war. The country needed an articulate leader who could inspire in the face of the coming German blitz.

Having made no progress with the standard leaders  of speech pathology at the time, the film follows the man who would become George VI when he finally tries out of desperation to seek help from an oddball speech therapist, who was completely unorthodox and did not even have clinical training. He largely was an Australian who had given speech and diction lessons in the Outback and subsequently helped veterans returning from World War I regain their voices after witnessing the horrors of a war the likes of which the world had never seen or even had the slightest notion of how to process.

I loved the film for a number of reasons. It portrays British class-ism expertly. It also has many elements of radio broadcasting, a field that has long interested me. Most of all, it relies almost exclusively on the talent of its actors and actresses to tell the story. There are virtually no special effects or other extraneous eye candy in this film other than some grand shots of Westminster Abbey (and a few other cuts of Cathedrals that were not Westminster but portrayed as such), being that it was made for less than $10 million dollars.

It is rated 'R' for a couple of scenes that have copious amounts of profanity. The profanity is part of the story, however, which relate to the odd but effective method of the speech therapy. The profanity is not just random or gratuitious for its own sake. Other that those two scenes, its an extremely clean movie.

Derek Jacobi, of Brother Cadfael fame, plays a great Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang. Though this never came out in the dialogue in the film, what appears to be an odd make-up job on Jacobi's bald head in the film is actually an historically accurate portrayal of Lang's skin condition called alopecia.

I highly recommend it if you get the chance.

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