Sunday, February 27, 2011

The King's Speech

Will the story of King George VI make a clean sweep at the Oscars?

Today's headlines report that the forthcoming 2011 Academy Awards will mainly consist of a battle between The Social Network and The King's Speech.

Our money is on the latter.

And that's because, while most other films centred on royal families and nobility tend to be drowned in tweeness, romance and people prancing about while talking in riddles, The King's Speech covers totally different territory.

No doubt the film is also an interesting take on the historical events surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII and the dramatic run-up to World War II. But it is first and foremost a human drama about the scars brought about by the pressure and expectations of a repressive upbringing.

The story is centred around Prince Albert (Colin Firth), second son of King George V, a man whose severe stammer affected his public engagements and social interaction at various levels.

Spurred by his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), he decides to see Mr Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist and teacher of elocution. Not without hurdles, an unlikely friendship starts developing between them, as Mr Logue graduates slowly from inferior subject and subordinate to trusted confidant.

And so it emerges that Albert's speech problems stems from the typically dysfunctional and repressed childhood that generation after generation of royals have endured, a state of affairs brilliantly depicted by Johann Hari in his 2002 book God Save The Queen.

Bullied by his brother, repressed by his father and painfully corrected for his left-handedness and knock-knees, Albert grows up to believe that far from ever being good enough to lead, he will always be a source of embarrassment and scorn. Until, that is, Lionel Logue's intervention and a series of unprecedented historical events will help Albert (soon to become King George VI) overcome his stammer and deliver one of the most dramatic speeches in world history.

Ultimately, it is both David Seidler's powerful script (himself a stammer sufferer as a child) and Colin Firth's moving interpretation of Albert that make The King's Speech stand out. And yes, also hopefully mop the floor (twice over) with The Social Network.

No comments: