Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The King's Speech


I’M SO PLEASED Colin Firth won the Leading Actor award at the Bafta ceremony the other night, and not because he’s British, though that might have something to do with it. But then, who would have expected such a small film with a limited cast and no really showy sets, nothing remotely resembling an action sequence, to attain such accolades? To collect 7 Bafta awards?

There is great acting from all the cast. Bertie’s final walk to the small radio-room to make his big speech to the world could have been done in such a matter-of-fact way, chin up, do-or-die-way, but it was easy to believe that Bertie, without saying a word, walked towards what was, for him, the gallows. My throat closed in sympathy and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the cinema.
In many ways the film could be considered a documentary. The story of a man who stammered, and how he learned to speak in the most public arena of his times – radio. The film is more than that; it also hints at family bullying, sibling rivalry and a brother who is at heart a weak man. It demonstrates an attitude that is fast disappearing in our modern world – staring down one’s misfortunes with a stiff upper lip. A curious phrase, first recorded in 1815, which makes me think it might, at that point, have had something to do with the misfortunes of war and Waterloo.
Surprising humour comes from both Bertie and his wife. There’s pathos from George IV, and examples about following protocols no matter what as his wife approaches her eldest son at her husband’s death bed. Protocol, etiquette and guilt at the inability to perform as expected are themes that stand out in the film. Attitudes that are thrown aside today for the far more popular thing of putting an individual first, regardless.
I expect that’s why it strikes a chord in the heart of anyone over fifty, who can remember how their parents struggled in a world so much harsher than today. It remains to be seen if those under fifty can identify with such principles, and if other countries will appreciate them.

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