Not long after Amy Ruttan and I decided to do this blog, we went together to see the movie The King’s Speech. Even if I wasn’t a history buff, I would have wanted to see the movie, because, well, Colin Firth is in it. Always and forever he is, for me, Mr. Darcy and, having seen his performance in Pride and Prejudice, I would pay to go see him stand on his head and read his grocery list.
So imagine my intense disappointment on seeing his face for the first time on the screen in this new movie…
He looked so old, so weary. A man under all the strain life could throw at him. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed. Colin Firth is a dish, and it was clear there would be no eye candy for me.
And then it didn’t matter.
I was totally sucked into the movie, into the agony of Bertie’s disability, into his wife’s desperate need to help him. There is a scene, at the very beginning of the movie, when Prince Albert stands before the microphone, frozen. The audience in attendance at the function waits. We wait. Bertie struggles, trying to move past his fear, his inability to form the words. I found myself cringing and as I looked away in sympathy I caught the moment when everyone on screen did the same. That was when I knew I was captivated—when I felt exactly as I would if I were standing watching someone in real life go through the same painful moment.
From a historical perspective, I found the story compelling, although I have no way of knowing exactly where or if artistic licence was taken. I am really only one generation removed from the time period. My parents lived through WWII, and my grandmother spoke with great distress about the abdication, although she loved both George VI and his queen. In those days all blame for Edward VIII’s abdication was placed on Wallis Simpson. This movie gives us a wider, and I dare say more realistic, view.
David’s choice was between a life of hedonistic enjoyment, embodied by his relationship with Wallis, and his duty to his country. He was not the first man to face such a choice, nor, most likely, will he be the last. Selfishness won over and, personally, I’m glad it did. The outcome of WWII would most likely have been much different.
Yet how my heart ached for Bertie when he realised his personal demons had just morphed into entirely different beasts by his brother’s actions. What had, to that point, been a more personal battle was suddenly going to have to be fought in front of the entire country, the entire world. This was a man who deeply felt his responsibilities, be it to his father, his family or, most of all, to his country. He was human, frail in some ways, strong and determined in others, and showing that, in all its facets, is the true genius of this movie.
I had grown up hearing stories of George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s courage during the Blitz and, for me, this movie only increased my admiration for that couple. All well and good to tell ourselves that royals, like the rest of us, put their pants on one leg at a time but it’s a different kettle of fish to see it, even just in a movie. I’d recommend this movie to anyone interested not just in history, but in the human condition—the fight to move past what has been holding you back, the importance of love, friendship and the dedication to what is right. Bertie was an inspirational figure, both in his personal and public lives.
And now I love Colin Firth even more…