Saturday, June 30, 2012

The King's Speech: A Review


It’s the account of King George VI and his battle to overcome an intense fear of public speaking. The film begins with Albert, the Duke of York, delivering an embarrassing speech at the Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London in 1925. This prompts Albert’s wife, Elizabeth, to make an appointment for her husband to meet with a purported speech therapist, Lionel Logue. The relationship between “Bertie” and Lionel begins with Albert's rejection of the therapist's unconventional methods. Yet, in a moment of despair, the Duke examines proof Logue has given him that his stammer is not innate. So he goes back to Logue for more help. When Albert’s older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates the throne in December 1936, Bertie becomes King George VI. Now he must fully confront his fears. Throughout their sometimes stormy relationship, Lionel and Bertie develop a profound friendship that culminates in victory for the King and for his subjects.

My Rating: ««««

Outstanding Features

1. The performances by Colin Firth (the Duke of York / Bertie / King George VI) and Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue) are stunning.

2. There are several especially poignant scenes that convey the relationship that develops between Bertie and Lionel.    

3. The interaction between Firth and Rush during the film's climax is choreographic.

4. This film closely follows the hero-cycle observed by Joseph Campbell. See and See also The Hero's Journey below.

5. The music composed for the film by Alexandra Desplat is fitting and beautiful. The excerpts from the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto are even more notable.

Connection to Christianity

We humans desperately struggle to overcome the consequences of original sin. The second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, performed during the film's climax, beautifully conveys the angst of the human condition. The music, together with the King’s struggle to overcome his severe flaw, gives me a sense of poignant longing. C. S. Lewis called this sort of longing Joy: glimpses of beauty that we want to last forever ( Such exquisite beauty reminds me of a paradise humans inhabited "once upon a time" that we hope to dwell in "happily ever after."

The Hero’s Journey

The Ordinary World:

1. The Duke of York gives a painfully embarrassing speech at the Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London.
2. When a visit to his physician proves frustrating, the Duke rejects any thought of additional help.

The Call to Adventure:

1. Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, seeks help from Lionel Logue. The label on Logue's buzzer reads, "L. Logue, Speech Defects."
2. The Duke agrees to an initial visit with Logue, whom he calls Dr. Logue.
3. The Duke enters an alternative realm when he crosses the threshold into Logue's office.
4. Lionel establishes the rules of the realm: Therapy takes place on Logue's turf; they use first names; etc.

Refusal of the Quest:

1. During their first meeting Bertie repeatedly expresses resistance to working with Lionel.
2. Bertie walks out of Logue's office, but not before receiving proof that his stammer isn't innate.

Accepting the Call:

1. After an exasperating session with his father, Bertie listens to the proof that Logue has given him. The speech, "To be or not to be . . ." is significant for Bertie.
2. Bertie and his wife make a second visit and express willingness to work with Logue "on mechanics."
3. After the death of his father, Bertie makes an impromptu visit to Lionel. Bertie reveals painful details of his childhood.

Entering the Unknown:

1. This other world has its own rules: meetings are at Logue's office; first names; daily meetings; rewards for keeping the rules.
2. Bertie discovers that his brother, David, is pursing marriage to Mrs. Wallis Simpson. This puts Bertie in danger of becoming King of the British Empire.

Supernatural Aid:

The methods Lionel Logue has acquired from his experience during and following World War I


The ability to lead his Empire via his broadcast speeches


Lionel Logue
Bertie's wife, Elizabeth

Tests and The Supreme Ordeal: (Spoiler Alert! The following summary reveals important details.)

1. Logue confronts Bertie, urging him to accept his destiny to become the King of England. Bertie bolts ("These sessions are over.") and cuts off communication with Logue (location on DVD).
2. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin apprises the Duke of York of Mrs. Simpson relationships with certain men that compromise England's security. There is real danger of the present government resigning.
3. Winston Churchill challenges the Duke to prepare to become the King.
4. David abdicates the throne, forcing Bertie to become King George VI.
5. King George VI gives his first speech to England's leadership without Logue's assistance. He stammers through the speech (1:11:44).
6. Bertie has an emotional meltdown that evening with his wife as he begins to realize the magnitude of responsibility he has accepted (1:14:28).
7. Bertie goes back to see Logue (1:16:42). Logue tells him, "You don't need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were five." and "You are very much your own man Bertie."
8. King George VI enters Westminster Abby to rehearse for his coronation (1:21:20). The King introduces Lionel Logue to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The powers behind the King check Logue's credentials and find them wanting. It prompts a crisis between Lionel and Bertie. Lionel seizes the opportunity to strengthen the King's self-awareness and to salvage his own reputation. Logue tells him, "You have such perseverance, Bertie. You're the bravest man I know. You'll make a bloody good King."
9. Stanley Baldwin tells the King of his plans to resign as Prime Minister (1:32:33). He says to the King, "I'm very much afraid, sir, that your greatest test is yet to come."
10. Prime Minister Neville Chamberalin announces Britain's declaration of war against Germany, September 3, 1939 (1:33:43).
11. The King's supreme ordeal is his first wartime speech to the Empire (location on DVD).

Reward and the Journey Home:

1. King George VI inspires the people of the British Empire to courageously resist German aggression.
2. After the speech, King George VI receives praise from aids, government officials and family members.
3. With Logue's assistance, King George VI gives wartime speeches in the years that follow.
4. King George VI and Lionel Logue remain friends the rest of their lives.

Master of Two Worlds / Restoring the World:

King George VI fulfills his destiny. The Allies are victorious.

No comments:

Post a Comment