I woke this morning with the deep and quiet satisfaction and feeling left after having watched Colin Firth’s performance as king George VI in Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, surely one of the great performances of any actor by any standard. While I am not saying that Colin Firth must win the Oscar as Best Actor, as I think it is to early to say so, surely he must be one of the serious and strong contenders for the award.
The film portrays the iron will of king George VI to prevail over his stammering to enable him to talk to the nation during the dark days of WWII with the help of an Australian consultant, Lionel Logue (splendidly played by Geoffrey Rush) and his wife Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter’s portrayal of the rather unconventional queen is just magnificent). George VI, the father of the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, became king after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, due to the scandal involving his liaison with Wallis Simpson, which was most inappropriate for the head of the church.
The King’s Speech is an actors’ film. To be more precise, it is an actor’s film: Colin Firth, although the support cast is also magnificent. The research and preparation that this man must have done on his character paid off handsomely in one of the most nuanced and extraordinary performances I have seen for a long time, as I was able to feel the despair, acute embarrassment and the strong desire to continue to perform duties from which there is no escape, as monarchs cannot choose their profession. Particularly in the context of the onset of WWII. Colin Firth’s portrayal of the king makes words such as “extraordinary”, “powerful”, “magnificent”, etc., feel as being totally weak and no longer having any meaning.
This is the real stuff, this is... just acting. Period.
Tom Hooper took the right approach by his use of a close camera to the main actors most of the time, what we get here is an intimate portrayal of a man’s anger and will; we feel all the time that we are there, close to the king himself, close to his wife and the princesses in a cosy home scenario. Danny Cohen’s cinematography captures both that sense of intimacy and yet the seriousness and splendour of the situation, complemented by the sharp and intelligent editing by Tariq Anwar. David Seidler’s tight script provides the skeleton onto which it was possible to build this film.
While The King’s Speech is not about royalty, yet we get an insight of the pressures and conflicts involving those who have been raised to be our monarchs, not only the privileges they enjoy, but also the chains that restrict their choices. There is also a good insight of the outlook of the political classes at the onset of WWII, their blindness and the choices they had to take. I am sure that historians will criticize this film to no end, which is, in itself, a good consequence.
I will just say that Colin Firth’s performance will live with me for a long, long time. What else can be said about an actor at the peak of his powers?
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spail, Anthony Andrews
To see the trailer, please click here.