The King’s Speech (2010) Director: Tom Hooper
“For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war…”
The King’s Speech was initially envisioned by writer David Seidler as a stage production. He later converted the idea into a script for a film, but was asked by the Queen Mum not to make it into a movie until after her death (which came in 2002). Cinematically conveying recent history can be a tricky project, however The King’s Speech is a wonderful film in my view.
It tells the story of the soon-to-be King George VI or “Bertie” (Colin Firth) as he struggles with a speech impediment (stuttering). He goes to visit Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who plays classical music for him through headphones, while he successfully completes Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. The plot follows the brief ascendance of Edward VIII, his playboy brother who accedes the throne in order to marry his loose American lover. Bertie’s and Lionel’s relationship remains rocky and skeptical, but the crescendo of the film occurs when King George VI must declare war over the radio on Nazi Germany in 1939. Archbishop of Canterbury Lang, Winston Churchill, and Neville Chamberlain are all present for the speech, as is Logue, who remains the loyal supporter to the speech of the King throughout his lifetime, until the King’s death from lung cancer in 1952. Notably, the speech is not a glamorous Hollywood ending, as the King still stammers his way through the speech at times.
At a young age, the writer of the story, David Seidler, drew upon an interest and inspiration from George VI. Seidler, too, struggled with a stammer but he had a hard time finding solid information on Logue. He contacted Logue’s surviving daughter who agreed to let Seidler pour over her father’s notebooks if the Queen Mum allowed it. She asked him not to do so during her lifetime.
Some, like Christopher Hitchens, criticized the film for not portraying the era’s now-unthinkable desire for appeasement with Nazi Germany, and also for under-reporting the role of Winston Churchill in the abdication of Edward VIII (Churchill encouraged him to remain). To be sure, the film takes certain necessary artistic licenses, though nothing too grand or revisionist in my view.
The King’s Speech is an all-around wonderful film -meticulously detailed, filled with complex characters in a fairly simple and focused plot, historically accurate, yet not overly self-indulgent. It is a marvelous film, deserving of its Academy Award for Best Picture.