The King’s Speech
So Mrs Woodall and I followed the hype that surrounds any mainstream British film of any discernible quality and went to see The King’s Speech, which turned out to be, in it’s own modest way, a perfect film.
To briefly sum up the plot – there is a man who is rubbish at giving speeches, which should be fine because he doesn’t want to give speeches. Only thing is, he absolutely has to give speeches! As time passes it becomes more and more important for him to speak, to the point where unless he makes a great speech the entire world will be overrun by Nazi Germany because he failed to inspire everyone to do anything about it. We’ve all been there.
All of the major Brirish themes are there – Underdog? Check. Posh/working class people outside of their comfort zone? Check. Sense of duty? Check. Threat of Nazi Germany? Check, all clear. They’re not overcooked in any way though. Throughout the film, the story never strays too far from the central point of this very shy man with a terrible stammer doing everything he can to be able to speak publicly, backed by his loving wife and daughters.
The strength of the film lies in the casting, the masterstroke of which is the Australian actor Guy Pearce as Edward VIII, the Abdicator. When he first appeared I thought ‘Oh my God. How the hell can Mike from Neighbours play a King of Great Britain! What next, Harold Bishop popping up as Winston Churchill?’
It took me a good ten minutes to come to terms with it, but, once I had, the genius of the casting gradually dawned on me. Every film needs a bad guy. In Guy Pearce, a fine actor, we had one. ‘You gave your brother a stammer so he can’t speak, you bully. Now you’re gallivanting with an American and shirking your duty, so he has to speak more often. Next you’re encouraging the Nazis, so your brother’s speeches are the most important undertaking any king has ever faced. And you’re being played by Mike from Neighbours, YOU TOTAL FUCKING BASTARD! I HATE YOU!’
I don’t go to the cinema often (I like to do several things at once, which there isn’t much opportunitity for at the cinema), but as far as Oscar potentials go, Colin Firth has to be as deserving as anyone. He looks nothing like George VI, or ‘Bertie’, but the way that he combined the physicalities of a stammer with the accompanying frustration, temper tantrums and sense of hopelessness was entirely believable. The scenes in which he was forced to confront the possible reasons for his stammer, paternal and fraternal bullying, genuinely made me sympathise with a king, and surely had many actual stammerers in floods of tears.
Geoffrey Rush, always a hugely rewarding actor, got the role of Lionel Logue spot on. This is at least the second time Rush has saved the bacon of an English monarch, having played the Queen’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham in Elizabeth. The circumstances of the relationship between Logue and Bertie (the highest of the high meets an Australian) meant no extroverted performance or forced quirkiness was required to provide the entertianment in their scenes. Simply fine, often understated, acting, drawing upon natural chacteristics and reactions.
I’ve only really ever made one speech, as a groom, and the prospect of that ensured that I suffered a very private hell throughout my engagement to the future Mrs Woodall. I cannot begin to imagine the daily trials that stammerers overcome, and I hope that many of them find as much inspiration as I did enjoyment in this funny, moving and classy film.
Back at home we have been watching The Killing, shown in double bills on BBC4 at 9pm on Saturdays, and on iPlayer. While it is sad that a programme entirely in Danish is the best thing on British television on a Saturday, The Killing is an engrossing and frightening thriller. It focusses on the investigation into the brutal murder of a teenage girl, and the impact upon her family, friends, and the police and politicians touched by the case. It’s pretty bleak, but entirely realistic and nicely combines good drama with scenes of genuinely chilling terror. It’s a 20 parter, so there’s plenty of time to catch up – you might even learn some Danish!