Saturday, January 22, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech. Colin Firth (King George VI).

Kuninkaan puhe / The King's Speech.
    GB/AU/US © 2010 UK Film Council / Speaking Film Foundation. PC: See Saw Films / Bedlam Productions. EX: Paul Brett, Mark Foligno, Geoffrey Rush, Tim Smith, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein. P: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin. D: Tom Hooper. SC: David Seidler. DP: Danny Cohen - shot on 35 mm: Super 35 - digital intermediate 2k: Molinare - 1,85:1. PD: Eve Stewart. Cost: Jenny Beavan. Makeup and hair: Karen Cohen, Nana Fischer.
    M: Alexandre Desplat. The major music motifs are from Mozart and Beethoven. Mozart: The Overture to La Nozze di Figaro (the king's rehearsal spoken on the test record). Beethoven: Symphony no. 7 in A Major: Allegretto (the king's speech). Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5: Second Movement. S: Lee Walpole. ED: Tariq Anwar. Studio: Elstree. Loc: London.
    C: Colin Firth (King George VI), Helena Bonham Carter (Queen Elizabeth), Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), Guy Pearce (King Edward VIII / Edward, Duke of Windsor), Michael Gambon (King George V), Timothy Spall (Winston Churchill), Jennifer Ehle (Myrtle Logue), Derek Jacobi (Archbishop of Canterbury), Anthony Andrews (Stanley Baldwin), Eve Best (Wallis Simpson), Freya Wilson (Princess Elizabeth), Ramona Marquez (Princess Margaret), Claire Bloom (Queen Mary). 118 min.
    A FS Film release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Katja Paananen / Saliven Gustavsson (Shakespeare quotes from Paavo Cajander / Carl Hagberg) viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2011 (weekend of Finnish premiere).

A strong drama based on a true story. The King's Speech belongs to the tradition of stories about handicapped people (such as The Miracle Worker), only this time the handicapped man is a prince who becomes the king against his will.

I had seen the preview several times, and it was a rare preview that I was always looking forward to. The film itself is of an equally high quality.

The dramatization is excellent, and there is a constant sense of drama and tragic depth in the story, treated with wit and a sense of humour. The fear of the microphone is at the center of the movie, and one can see The King's Speech as a horror story with the microphone as the monster. There is nothing trivial in this, and the overwhelming reason for the cowardly king (who is "afraid of his own shadow") to overcome his fear is that there is a real monster ascending in Europe, Hitler, a wizard of the microphone.

Colin Firth gives a career-best performance as the coward who is determined to transcend his own limitations. Constantly humiliated, he never gives up. The film is also a showcase for Geoffrey Rush as the speech instructor. Helena Bonham Carter excels as the source of love for George. The glimpses of Claire Bloom as Queen Mary and Michael Gambon as King George V let us divine a loveless childhood for the prince.

The King's Speech is a personal, intimate story, yet always with a sense of history. The British Empire was at its apogee, facing a crisis in the line of succession.

Lionel Logue is forbidden to discuss private matters, yet we sense that the source of George's stammer is in deep humiliation and lack of love (even malnutrition and a subsequent constant stomach trouble) since early childhood.

Lionel Logue has no credentials but he has learned his craft in the First World War when he got to treat shell-shocked soldiers who had lost the trust in their own voice.

The film may be conventional but it works. The climax, the King's first wartime speech, is visualized as a montage of the British Empire, the 63 countries (do I remember this accurately) attuned to listen. The sound brings separate spaces together in time.

Without the Battle of Britain Hitler might have won. Some aspects of history the film bypasses such as the naivety of Neville Chamberlain with Hitler in Munich in 1938. Apparently King Edward had similar tendencies or worse.

The print viewed was on the ugly side, with a speed-printed look.

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