Saturday, December 25, 2010

The King's Speech (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The King's Speech

It's not easy to get over family struggles. Consider the case of Prince Albert (Colin Firth) when he first faces the microphone in the 1920s: it is an invasive phallic machine, usurping his royal masculinity. King George (Michael Gambon) puts him center-stage at Wembley Stadium. A sea of peering faces await. The monstrous microphone resembles a gun-sight. Egad! The Prince stammers! Albert fails miserably. He attempts to get help. He tries smoking, speaking with a mouthful of marbles, and liquor. All to no avail.

Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is desperate and seeks help. She enters the home of eccentric Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  Logue's home does not have much in it. In fact, stacks of things are on the floor. The walls are peeling, painted in a digestive mish-mash of pink- orange- purple and green. A half finished model plane hangs in this stark warehouse of a living room, perhaps foretelling the impending Hitler apocalypse.

Logue himself seems like something drawn from John Tenniel or Ralph Steadman. He is crude, irreverent, wrinkled and loud. Logue has little use for regal ceremony. To get the Duke over his stammer, he encourages His Highness to swear as he speaks with enough blasphemy to make Linda Blair blush. Logue also pushes Bertie to talk about the intimidation he felt with his father King George. Rush's Logue is part Henry Higgins and part Sigmund Freud with a touch of George Carlin. When Albert unleashes a stream of profanity, it is safe to say that many will be reminded of "the seven words you can't say on television." 

Suddenly King George is dead. The Duke's brother is in charge, a very weak king (Guy Pearce) is more focused on romance and relinquishes his power. Prince Albert is on his own. Hitler is imminent. It is Logue or bust.

A pivotal speech depends on a clear voice.  Logue becomes an indespensible arm to The King. Logue is the playful and joyful mirror that Albert reflects into to discover a sign of peace.  Elizabeth often suffers in silence. She hangs on her husband's every word and we feel scorched when Albert stammers. But might she just feel a smidge jealous given her husband's closeness with the frenetic therapist, who is more than a bit of a fakir? The movie doesn't bring this out, instead focusing on Logue's wildness and Rush does a fine job of bringing this man to life.

The highlight of the film however, remains Colin Firth. Through him we experience the anxiety and the panic of a royal stutterer, whose tongue hangs in the balance.

1 comment:

Norwich Debating Society said...

I noticed the model plane too and thought it to be symbolic of the War but everyone scoffed me! Also did you think that the background of Logue's room (Mismatched and unfinished) represented Bertie's body always being corrected and changed leaving something bad...
Or was that just me?