Monday, February 21, 2011

Faith & Film: The King's Speech

by Rev. Laura Barclay

One of my co-workers has been instrumental in starting a faith and film series at her church for fellowship in and outside of the church walls. Because film is a common medium for discussion, we have chatted about possible films to include in the series. With this on my mind, I recently saw The King’s Speech, which may be one of the best films I’ve seen in a few years. It follows the true story of the reluctant King George VI (previously Prince Albert) who is afflicted with a stammer. As Prince Albert, he is second in line to the throne after his older brother Prince Edward. The film follows several speeches he gives where he struggles and pauses throughout, much to his discomfort and the disdain of the audience. After trying many unsuccessful speech coaches, he meets Lionel Logue at the insistence of his wife. They argue and debate about Lionel’s methods, but they soon become very close friends and Albert is able to share traumatic events from his life. His father, King George V passes away and his brother becomes King Edward VIII. When King Edward contemplates marriage to an American socialite who is twice divorced (deemed improper at the time), Edward faces abdication. The prospect of being King and preparing for the onslaught of Hitler hangs heavy on Prince Albert’s heart as he does some soul searching at the prodding of Logue. Edward marries the American, abdicates the throne, and Albert becomes King George VI. As Britain declares war on Germany, he faces the ominous task of delivering a powerful, yet comforting speech to his people.

While the tale is historical and you can simply “Google” his name to find out what happens, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Before this movie, the story was little known and even restricted from being published during the long lifetime of Prince Albert’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen Elizabeth II’s mother), who died in 2002. She loved her husband deeply and the memories were too painful to re-live.

Although the church, personified by the Archbishop of Canterbury is portrayed as somewhat antagonistic and disapproving of Logue’s methods, the story itself draws interesting parallels to the story of Moses. Both Moses and King George VI struggled with a stammer, were reluctant to lead, wanted someone else to be chosen instead, and had to find a way to stand up to a frightening, oppressive dictator. It was powerful to see Prince Albert wrestle with his disability in order to be comfortable being the leader his people needed, much in the same way Moses had to overcome his discomfort with his speech in order to confront the Pharaoh.

I recently read a news article about how children who stutter found a role model in watching this film. In the story, kids who stuttered expressed the need to be listened to and not judged. They were inspired by the leadership portrayed in the film after facing similar humiliating public speaking experiences. Parents discussed the need for optimism, patience, and support. I encourage you to read the story to see the real life applicability.

This true story incorporates the themes of friendship, overcoming adversity, and leadership, and could be very popular in community-wide or small group viewings. Discussions could be held about thematic elements, biblical allusions, and/or addressing stuttering and fear of public speaking. The acting is superb by every performer, and I encourage you to see it as soon as possible!

The movie is rated R, most likely for language, which is used during the course of the unorthodox therapy session. It stars Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. Check out more details about the movie here:

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