Restraint makes ‘The King’s Speech’ a cinematic jewel (IANS Movie Review)

March 5th, 2011 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: “The King’s Speech”; Director: Tom Hooper; Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter; Rating: ****

A king is expected to be regal, to be able to move his subjects with the power of his oratory. Stammering is the last defect you’d expect in him. And yet, there was one such king.

Director Tom Hooper turns the stammering of one who would be king into the story of a nation rising against fascism.

King George VI, before being crowned, had an unusual stammer. When circumstances lead him to the throne, he is distraught at his own handicap. But trained by an unorthodox speech therapist, the king overcomes not only his speech impediment, but gains his confidence and leads Britain during the dark times of World War II, with Hitler right at the country’s doors.

Yet, it is not just the lessons that he receives, but the interaction with a common man - his therapist - that truly stands out. It is this subtlety that is inserted into the script with delicate charm by writer David Seidler and becomes one of the strongest points of the film.

It takes masterly craft to tell a simple, small story convincingly. Director Tom Hooper uses a lot of camera tricks to do that - low angle shots, extreme close ups, and wide angle close up shots to heighten the claustrophobia of a man whose speech is trapped inside his throat. Yet, where he shines is in not going overboard with it.

And this restraint indeed is the greatest strength of a film that really does not cover any new ground, either cinematically or in any other way. The camera does not impose, and neither do the dialogue or the actors. What could have been a melodrama at the hands of a less adept director, thankfully becomes a cinematic crowning jewel in the hands of Hooper.

It is a film filled with such quiet moments of doubt, that despite having nothing new, the film seems like a new take on the overcoming-the-odds genre. No wonder, the emotional film has come out on top at the Oscars and Golden Globe awards.

Politically, the film is not just the story of a stammering man. The analogy is of a nation which aspires to world domination stammering at the prospect of a dictator at their shores. Can a stammering king stand between Hitler and total ruin?

He does, and there in lies the message for a world still fighting fascist dictators and governments - anyone can stand up, all that is needed is a strong will.

Speaking of the actors, one is so taken in by the king’s character, that it is hard to imagine that Colin Firth has delivered pages of dialogues in one breath in his other films.

His efforts tell you that it is indeed easy to speak in a film, but to not do so, to not really have even one free flowing line, without doubt draws out the best out of an actor. Colin soars, and in this portrayal of an uncertain monarch, shows even royalty has to contend with everyday problems.

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