“The King’s Speech”—A Personal Idiom for All of Us
This is the third of my movie reviews so far. The first movie review, “127 Hours”, and the second, “Black Swan”, are two portraits of protagonists who have a daunting obstacle to overcome. In “127 Hours” the main character has to wound himself in the most barbarous of ways to survive. In “Black Swan”, the ballerina has to face her demons in order to truly be an artist. And in “The King’s Speech”, King George VI has to overcome a debilitating stutter of humiliating proportions with a determination, dignity, and courage that can only be called heroic. After the Golden Globes awards I was delighted to read that the producers of “127 Hours” and “The King’s Speech” (a Golden Globe winner for best actor Colin Firth) were surprised critics were comparing their movies not only to each other but also to “Black Swan”. To me the theme is evident: these characters all have unhealed wounds. In two of the three their wounds are triumphantly healed and they move forward with their lives.
In “The King’s Speech, “Bertie” (Colin Firth) who has suffered from severe stuttering since childhood, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), his gentle and compassionate wife, encourages Bertie to see an eccentric Australian expat, the self-taught speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a reluctant beginning in which the class difference between the king and the therapist seems insurmountable, the two eventually form an endearing and unbreakable friendship. With the imaginative and therapeutic support of Logue, the King courageously overcomes his stutter and delivers the pivotal radio-address in 1939 announcing that Great Britain must wage war against Germany. Colin Firth, in a truly inspired portrayal of a tortured man, renders this scene heartbreaking. Finding his voice allows his sense of self to rise from the abyss of silence.
This superb movie is both humorous and emotionally charged. The viewer slowly comes to the realization that, while we all have to find our voice, for some of us even the vocalization of sound is an act of courage. David Seidler, the movie’s 73-year-old screenwriter, was a childhood stutterer. Colin Firth has said that his inspiration came not only from Seidler but also from his own speech disorder that he had to overcome in order to develop his identity as a young actor. And while the roots of stuttering are still somewhat mysterious — there’s no single accepted theory of its origins. Adult stutterers often undergo years of sometimes discouraging therapies before they can feel comfortable with the sound of their own voice. The confluence of voice and self-identity can only be called iconic for those in the performing arts. This movie embodies the story of a wound that was healed bravely, elegantly, and gracefully.