Moving away from the crime thriller genre ofDirty Harry , I thought I would take a look at thecritically acclaimed The King’s Speech (2010).The film charts King George VI’s battle with hisstammer and his relationship with Australianspeech therapist Lionel Logue. This presentationshould show how effective it is as an openingsequence.
The opening sequence straight away establishes the institution behind the film with the use of the Weinstein company’s logo and the UK film council’s logo – this tells us that the film is distributed by an American studio , but it is ultimately a British based film. Although the audience may already know the genre of the film through the actual title and trailers , the use of background information at the beginning helps to establish the film as a historical drama. The film could be classed as a biopic of King George VI’s life and personal struggles .The historical information also help us realise that the story arc starts in 1925 with theDuke of York giving a speech in Wembley. The opening sequence then progresses ontoshow him preparing with his wife and then eventually outside delivering his speech.Audiences like structure and will want the narrative to have a beginning, middle and end.The historical nature to the film allows the narrative to be presented chronologically in aclear and fluent way. Dirty Harry (1971) depicted a state of dis- equilibrium with theantagonist set on a killing spree in San Francisco – the dis equilibrium in the King’s Speechcomes from George VI’s struggle with his stammer and possibly the brief mention of theabdication crisis. The new equilibrium is created when the King becomes a more confidentpublic speaker and motivates the country through a wartime radio broadcast.
Another key factor to the effectiveness of the opening sequence is the variety ofmedia language used. A range of different camera shots, cameramovements, edits, sound and music are included to give us vital information aboutwhere the film is set, who the main characters are and how we are meant to feelabout what they do. The close up of the microphone is quite significant as it links back to the subject of the film and makes it clear that speech and voice are major themes. There tends to be lots of extreme close ups of the King’s face and there are plenty of mid-shots as well. These shots are purposely there to show his emotion and focus , they really do express that he feels terror in what he has to do. The sound in the opening sequence seems to be non- diegetic with the King’s first speech and the gargling of water two prominent examples. The use of non- diegetic sound adds a high level of quality and authenticity to the film. The score was composed by Alexandre Desplat and was made to sound dated by recording through old microphones made for the Royal Family. The music is quite sombre and conveys the protagonist’s lack of control and struggle to be heard.
The king is represented a very weak man anddoesn’t seem to be possess the qualities of strongMonarch. He shakes and his lips tremble – this givesthe impression that he is an incredibly nervous man.He doesn’t smile and his lack of strength goesagainst the stereotype of a male protagonist. He justsimply doesn’t have the authority and strength thatHarry Callahan has in Dirty Harry or Bruce Wane hasin the Batman films. His costume and makeup tellsus many things too – his face is quite pale and thisshows that he is sickly timid man when it comes topublic speaking. His smart suit and top hat do showhis status as a royal , but the black casts a shadow ofseriousness and misery over him and his position.Helena Bonham Carter as the Duchess of York seems to be the stronger character ofthe two and this is not usually the case for women in film. She goes against thestereotype in that sense , but she does perform as a good wife in the openingsequence and supports her husband throughout. He needs a high level ofreassurance and this only adds to his weakness as a man. Her costume completelyportrays her as a royal due to her sophisticated makeup , hat and luxurious furtrimmed coat.
The representation of the King actually creates an ideology and tries to make theaudience feel sympathetic towards him as he stammers. It is typical of an ideology tosupport the protagonist against his battle and it probably wouldn’t be very politicallycorrect or well liked if the film depicted a previous King in a unreasonable light with anideology based against him.
Overall The King’s Speech is very effective as anopening sequence for a historical drama film.The music and costume stay true to the timeperiod and the media language enables GeorgeVI to be accurately represented as a weaknervous man with low confidence. The genreand narrative are also established early on andan ideology can be seen if representation islooked at closely!