Thursday, December 2, 2010

The REAL King's Speech

Popular movies can still provide opportunities for me to explore people, history, and ideas that I might otherwise have never uncovered.  Good films continue to inspire me to my best efforts, bring me in touch with my better humanity, and allow me to identify with people that are not part of my everyday experience.  I am motivated to learn new things, and I have a catharsis of cleansing emotions.

This kind of cinematic experience is becoming rare for me in popular American film. 

Occasionally I will become fascinated by the advance press of a film yet to be released.  As you know, this year, for me, it's "The King's Speech".  A number of ingredients come together to heighten my anticipation and excitement.  In some cases, I love the the cast (the performers here are like my dream team); sometimes I admire the work of the director or writer; or maybe the subject matter is of special interest.

In the case of a film based on actual events or people, I enjoy doing some research prior to my initial viewing. First of all, it enhances my enjoyment ; and second, it allows me to study all aspects of the filmmaking and evaluate the choices made in creating the work before me on the screen.  Not to mention the satisfaction of a broader horizon.

I knew almost nothing about King George VI.  I didn't know about his lineage, the origin of his nickname "Bertie" (after Albert, one of his given names), the indifference of his parents and the cruelty of his caretaker, his emotional turmoil, his stammer...or even that he was the last Emperor of India!  He also introduced the beloved Corgi dogs into the Royal Family. I knew little about the circumstances around his "accidental" ascension to the throne. And I had no idea what The King's Speech was.

So I found a recording of the famous speech given by King George to his subjects on the eve of England's entry into WWII.  Unfortunately there is no film of the speech (that I was able to find).  The King's voice is almost a drone, expressionless.  But knowing the special challenges he encountered, and his terror of failing, it becomes poignant.

I'm slightly impatient with critics who have said that this will be a "stodgy film" appealing  to older members of the industry, that it is Oscar bait due to its coverage of a British royal family.  Royals are human beings, and this one has a compelling story to tell, that might generate honest emotion.  Maybe that's not cutting-edge, but it might be universal.

I dislike hearing that the film is already "fading", before it has had a chance to be seen by most.  At the very least, given the talent involed, it deserves a fair viewing.  I would not want to see the merits (or faults) of the film go ignored while it becomes like a football tossed about in a game of award one-upmanship, or a pawn in a manufactured battle of generations.

I hope readers will enjoy listening to the following recording of King George VI's speech, as we await the filmic recreation by Colin Firth and company.

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