The King’s Speech

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in 'The King's Speech'

I really enjoyed this film – we watched it today in the swanky Palace Brighton Bay cinema. It was interesting to watch it in Australia, having spent half a year here now. There are lots of amiable nods to Australia in the film (Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helped King George VI and who is portrayed wonderfully by Geoffrey Rush in the film, was Australian).

The music in the film is rather prominent and matches the large-scale story well. To accompany Bertie’s first session with the antipodean therapist – as he roars the “To be or not to be” speech – it is Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ overture that is blasted into his headphones to prevent him hearing himself. At the climax of the film – when the now King, George VI, is broadcasting his “In this grave hour” speech to his nation and empire – it is that most regal of music, Beethoven’s seventh symphonic slow movement, that provides the backdrop for the weighty words.

This seems to me a well considered and appropriate use of music. A noticeable part of the film’s ‘look’ was in recreating the clean, sparse furnishings of the time (and I mean furnishings in the widest sense: the clothes and the civic spaces as well as the dwelling decoration all harked back to a less cluttered time). Music composed especially and therefore unknown would have seemed trite and perhaps hackneyed in the context of such an aesthetic. As it was, the familiarity of the music gave it both a suitable gravitas and a cultural transparency.

It was the pitch-perfectness of these moments that allowed the film’s real charm and mischevious humour to shine all the brighter.

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