Friday, February 4, 2011

The King's Speech



I feel decadent today.  I’ve seen two movies in two days: The Rite today, and The King’s Speech yesterday.  I enjoyed both of them.

The King’s Speech tells the story of how King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, came to the throne struggling with a stutter.  Colin Firth gives an outstanding performance as the King, and Geoffrey Rush an equally good performance as Lionel Logue, the speech therapist without credentials who helped the King with his impediment.  In the background are at least two other stories: the lead–up to, and the beginning of, World War II; and the selfishness and immaturity of the King’s older brother who abdicated to marry Wallace Simpson.  An admitted Anglophile with irrepressible tendencies to romanticize human existence, I loved the movie.

I have to note that the movie has been accused of historical inaccuracy by, among others, the iconoclast Christopher Hitchens (see http://www.slate.com/id/2282194/).  His principal problem was with the depiction of Winston Churchill’s support of the King’s brother and the King’s support for Neville Chamberlin’s policy of appeasement with the Third Reich.

The story of the stutter and the work done by the King and Mr. Logue to repair it is, as far as I can tell, accurate.  It’s that story that makes the movie a good one, in my book at least, and it is the purpose of the movie to tell that story.

Yesterday was the second time I saw The King’s Speech.  I’ve been thinking about it off–and–on for several weeks.  Some thoughts:

1.  The movie shows that all people basically are created equal.  The roles we all play may be different, the circumstances of our lives may be comfortable or horrible, and the way we live our lives may be incomprehensible to people in other circumstances.  But each one of us is human.  All of us are born, love, eat, drink, have sex, pee, poop, get sick, make mistakes, hurt others, achieve, fail, learn, embrace ignorance, have hopes, and die.  Every one of us.  Prince Charles and I share this common humanity, even if we share precious little else.

2.  Friendship heals.  As I saw the movie, Mr, Logue’s therapy worked when all other therapies failed because he insisted that the King treat him as an equal.  As the King slowly comes around to seeing Logue as a friend, he cooperates more with Logue in the therapy, and his stutter improves.  Logue insisted on friendship and that friendship led to the King’s improvement.  In my own life, over and over again, I have resisted help from doctors and others who I considered to be remote and uninvolved.  Over and over again, I have been made more whole by friends who love me as I am and who, out of love for me, tell me the truth about myself and stick by me as I deal with the truth.

3.  Duty is a big part of everybody’s life.  This concept seems so out–of–date to me, but I know it really isn’t.  George VI started work on his stutter so that he could fulfill his duties as the Duke of York.  The movie shows just how difficult his work on the stutter was, and how difficult for him and his wife were the responsibilities of being so close to the throne.  George VI put aside his personal needs and preferences in favor of the responsibilities that came to him as Duke and, eventually, King.  His sense of duty is contrasted with that of his abdicating brother whose primary duty apparently was to Mrs. Simpson and his dick.  I know that every parent and every good employee recognizes and appreciates this contrast.  It’s always tempting for me to shirk responsibility and to do what I want.  The example of George VI is that there are some things that are bigger than we are and that deserve our commitment to duty and responsibility.

I enjoyed The King’s Speech.  It’s a well–made and thoughtful movie.

Maybe some other day I’ll write about The Rite.

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