Sunday, February 12, 2012

The King's Speech

King George VI and Colin Firth as King George VI
"Be not afraid of greatness: 
some men are born great, 
some achieve greatness
and some have greatness thrust upon them."

~William Shakespeare, "Twelfth Night"
     That famous quote could probably apply to many great men and leaders over the years. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, William Wallace, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and so many many more.

     Although, the part of the quote I love the most is the first line, "Be not afraid of greatness." Now I think a lot of those men were probably afraid when it came to danger and almost death, but the similarities of all of those men were that they were all soldiers. Trained not to be afraid of the battlefield. If they went into danger unafraid and won their battles, they would have been honored for their greatness. If they went into their battles unafraid and died, they would have been honored...and remembered for their greatness.

     King George VI or Bertie as he was known by his family was a trained naval officer and participated (I don't think he was allowed to fight) in WWI. Yet his true greatness did not come in war or combat on the battlefield, but rather the combat inside himself. His terrible stammering and fear of others, then when finally was overcame, he led his country into the greatest victories of it's history.

~ ~ ~

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush as Bertie and Lionel Logue
     The King's Speech begins in the late 1930s, just prior to WWII. Prince George Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) has been asked to give the closing speech to the Great Exhibition. 

     Nervous and painfully scared, Bertie walks up the microphone...and can't say a single word. When he finally does it comes out as antagonizing stuttering.  His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter), listens through tears and is determined to find help for her husband once and for all. Attempt after attempt is made with no results, except for Bertie's explosive anger. In one final act of desperation, she sees Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) , a speech therapist from Australia and asks for his help.

     The first visit between Lionel and Bertie is less than enjoyable, but eventually Bertie comes to realize that there might be hope for his stammering. He goes back to find his voice and ends up finding a very unlikely friend in the process.

~ ~ ~

     As the movie progresses we begin to see that Bertie's stammering was brought upon by abuse from his first nanny and even his father. He's use to being pushed around and told what to do. His youngest brother, Johnny, was an epileptic and was hidden behind their palace where he died of a seizure at thirteen.

     His oldest brother, Crown Prince Edward or David is his best friend, but his affair with the twice married American socialite, Wallace Simpson, is putting the King, Bertie and the rest of the country at edge. Edward's public relationship could do more damage to the royal family than he can imagine, but he is determined to have his way. If he marries the American divorcee' than he must give up the throne to the next man in line. His brother Bertie. And that is not what Bertie wants.

Bertie was born into greatness and now greatness is being thrust upon him, 
but he doesn't believe he can ever achieve it.

     Angry and afraid, Bertie confides in Lionel about this sudden change. Lionel from the beginning has believed that Bertie has the will power, the integrity, and the compassion to lead the country, but Bertie's painful past continues to haunt him and make him feel like he is useless. 

     This move is not about a man learning how to speak. It is about a man who is learning not to be afraid, of the past, of society, of sudden threats and above all, of greatness.

~ ~ ~

Helena-Bonham Carter and Colin Firth as Queen Elizabeth and King George VI
     The writing of this move is exceptional, but it's cast list is nothing short of incredible. I was a little wary about Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter playing the lead roles as King George and Queen Elizabeth, but they changed my mind 5 min. into the movie. 

     Colin Firth as Bertie gave so much in this performance. He moved me to tears on several occasions and showed a man with immense courage and compassion strong enough to lead his country into war.

     Helena Bonham-Carter was petite, pretty, and so tough! Yet, that was how Queen Elizabeth (or the Queen Mum as she was later known) has always been remembered. With the exception of Lionel Logue, she is the only person who believes in her husband and is completely loyal and faithful to him, no matter what life throws at them. A wonderful role model for woman.

~ ~ ~

Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
     And now, we get to Lionel Logue. I've always liked Geoffrey Rush and so I was excited to see him in this movie. He was funny and personable, and just seemed like the type of guy you could talk to for hours. There was such a genuine kindness and relaxed presence about Logue, which is probably what you want in a doctor, but the best thing about him is his never wavering trust in Bertie's leadership abilities.

     Lionel and Bertie come from two opposite backgrounds which is what made their friendship so unique in the first place. Although Lionel is respectful, formality has a limit in his office and he insists that Bertie and Elizabeth respect his rules of informality and bending of social class ideals. 

     Over the course of the movie, we see Bertie and Lionel's relationship progress from prince and commoner, to doctor and patient, to friends and companions. Lionel's rather unorthodox way of helping Bertie, through various exercises, singing, and simply listening to him has a very endearing affect in the film.
 
~ ~ ~

     On the outbreak of war with Germany, Bertie is called upon to make a speech to declare England's second emergence into war. Now as king, greatness is thrust upon him. His people need reassurance, they need to know that their king is with them.

     With only Logue by his side helping him through his 3 min. speech, Bertie completes it flawlessly. Cheers ring out all over Buckingham palace and his family and counselors inside are overcome with joy. Bertie finally did it. He had overcome his fear, he had let go of his past, he had achieved greatness.

Greatness is not found in battle victories, but rather the victories found in one's self. It is found in friendship with unlikely people and the courage to see past your flaws. It is found in love and compassion and never wavering faith. King George VI lead Great Britain through WWII and not in fighting it's battles, but inspiring courage to those on the home front and hope for everyone praying for victory.

King George VI

2 comments:

  1. I love, love, love the Kings Speech (not including the swearing). It was SO nice seeing Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle (Mytle Logue) again! Darcy and Elizabeth!!!!

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