Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The King's Speech—A Wonderful Movie

Posted By on 01.05.11 at 08:30 AM

The Kings Speech
  • The King's Speech

The King's Speech fails a test I set for it before I saw it. Would The King's Speech find room for the Queen's Speech, or the Queen's Response, or the Queen's Assertion, or whatever it is we should call something the wife of King George VI supposedly said that was far and away the most impressive thing said in its time by any British nob not named Churchill? I hoped.

War broke out, France fell, and German bombs fell nightly on London. The royal family was advised to head for someplace safe like Canada, but the queen explained, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."

That is what the "official website of the British monarchy" says she said; the the Churchill Centre website recalls language a bit more grand: "The girls will not leave unless I do. I will not leave unless the King does. And the King will not leave under any circumstances whatsoever." There are still other versions.

At any rate, The King's Speech is the king's story, not his wife's, and there's no room for the poignant irony—which the stammering king might have recognized at the time—that although he successfully got through his big we-are-at-war speech to his subjects, every word of that speech was written for him and would soon be forgotten, while his wife's off-the-cuff remark (if it was, and if she made it) would be remembered into the next century.

The King'’s Speech succeeds on its own terms. It's such a skillfully put-together movie that audiences don't think twice about what it gets away with: it ends on an air of general rejoicing at the king's performance and sends us away happy and heart-warmed even though what we have just been looking at is the outbreak of World War II. It's been 71 years, I thought, and we've needed every one of them to bring us to the point where it's possible to sell the public a feel-good account of the onset of the greatest catastrophe in human history.

But then a few days later I came across The Sound of Music (1965) on television.

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