The King's Speech DVD
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Directed by Tom Hooper
Produced in 2010
Main Language - English
Milo Wakelin applauds Tom Hooper's superb historical drama in which Colin Firth gives a career-defining performance as the stammering King George VI.
It was the stammer heard around The World. In 1925, Albert, Duke of York, gave a disastrous Empire Day speech that echoed around the waiting crowds at Wembley Stadium and was instantly relayed via radio to the rest of the colonies. For Albert (‘Bertie’ to his family), who had suffered a speech impediment since childhood, it was a personal humiliation. For a monarchy that was slowly waking up to the new realities of radio and public presentation, it was a disaster.
Out of desperation, Bertie’s loyal wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) procures him an unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who is not only a commoner and a failed actor - but an Australian to boot. As the abdication crisis grows and WWII looms, it falls to Bertie to provide a reassuring voice to his people at home and abroad, and Logue must coach his friend through a crisis that is at once personal and historical.
The King's Speech is a superb historical drama starring Colin Firth as the reluctant King, and if you haven’t heard about his performance already, you soon will. British monarchs such as Henry V and Elizabeths I and II have been sure tickets to Academy gold for Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, but Bertie provides far less obvious material. Firth’s challenge in this film is to express the passion and frustration of a man who has trouble completing simple sentences, and the result is a touching performance of quiet power, subtle humour and great humanity. For an already highly-regarded actor, it marks the Turning Point between well-earned popularity and greatness.
Geoffrey Rush is a wry and provocative presence as Bertie’s teacher, confidante and ultimately lifelong friend, and Helena Bonham-Carter brings wit and warmth to the role of Elizabeth, Bertie’s wife (and the future Queen Mother) whose determination and devotion to her husband gives the film its emotional core. Guy Pearce is icy and unsettling as Bertie’s older brother, King Edward VIII, and though his screen time is comparatively brief, the contrast between the two men - and the different futures they offered the nation - could not be more obvious.
Director Tom Hooper previously helmed The Damned United (2009), and has a long track record of quality television that includes the TV movie Longford (2006) and the miniseries Elizabeth I (2005) and John Adams (2008). Here, his often unconventional direction gives the film a visual energy that transforms what could have been a cosy TV drama into a thrilling piece of cinema. The action is set almost entirely indoors - apart from a scene in foggy Regent’s Park in which the low visibility cleverly preserves the intimacy of a stage play - and contrasts the interiors of royal residences with 1930s tenements. Hooper uses a variety of camera angles and lenses that open up seemingly mundane rooms and hallways in unexpected ways, whilst the peeling wallpaper and plaster of Logue's office adds an unusual dash of colour and texture to what would otherwise be a bare set.
In the film’s most climactic sequences, the camera draws close to Bertie’s face, using a shallow depth of focus that draws our attention to the movements of his mouth as he readies himself to speak. We can see every gulp, every nervous click of the tongue, the sheer frightened tension in his lips, and experience every detail of Firth’s remarkable performance as a man for whom every word must be individually surmounted.
For the supporting cast, The King’s Speech continues the period drama tradition of using A-grade actors to play historical figures (who appear for all of five minutes). Michael Gambon is a towering, terrifying presence as Bertie’s father, King George V, while Derek Jacobi plays the meddlesome Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, who objects to Lang’s prominent role during the coronation. Only Timothy Spall feels slightly out of place as a scenery-chewing, pantomimic Winston Churchill.
The screenplay by David Seidler - who has himself lived with a speech impediment - gives credible insight into Bertie's struggle to make himself heard. If the dialogue does not always match the quality of the performances - Logue's advice sometimes feels a little too glib; his character a little too sphinx-like - this is a minor quibble against a film that is as entertaining as it is impressive.
Milo Wakelin on 13th January 2011
Author of 103 reviews
Wonderful Oscar-winning drama from director Tom Hooper telling the story of the relationship formed between King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
After reluctantly acceding to the throne when his older brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates, George, or Bertie to his family and friends, is forced to act when his stutter leads to concerns about his leadership. Help is soon at hand, however, when he employs unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue, who, using previously untried techniques, begins to bring about improvements in George's speech.
As the relationship between the two begins to strengthen, the King's new found confidence grows, just in time for him to lead his country through its gravest hour.
Colin Firth won a Best Actor Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Oscar for his performance.
Length: 118 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Cat No: MP1015D
Format: DVD Colour
- Commentary with director Tom Hooper
- An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship: The Making of the King’s Speech
- Speeches from the real King George VI
- Production sketches from Academy Award-nominated production designer Eve Stewart
- Interview with Mark Logue (Co-author of The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy)
- Photo gallery
- A Look Behind The Scenes.