A victory is a triumphant action of achieving a goal or defeating an enemy. Whether this enemy be another country or a personal fault, an achievement is significant in it’s own way. The King’s Speech (2010) is a story of an under confident and family oppressed King (Bertie) who is victorious over his speech impediment. However it is not only his impediment that he triumphs. Through lighting and shadows, the viewer comes to recognize that his victory is on a more personal level then just over coming a bad habit. Music and sound effects add a depth that amplifies this and gives greater meaning to the story. Neville Chamberlain warns Bertie “that your greatest test is yet to come” at the start of the second half f the movie. Although he does not specifically signify what this test is, the viewer immediately assumes it as being WW2. In the world that The King’s Speech was set world war two was close appearing.
During a time of great apprehension and fear of Germany, this is Chamberlain’s literal meaning. However this ‘test’ is really describing Bertie’s challenge over his own personal matters. His journey into conquering his own fears is what Hooper draws our attention to. Mise en scene techniques depict the character development and difficulties he is faced with. Camera angles form ideas on Bertie’s progress of overcoming the burden that oppresses him, the burden of expectation that he has never been able to live up to. The greatest test therefore becomes his final speech (The Kings Speech). This is a speech that informs the country of the newly commenced war making Bertie the voice of hope. His victory therefore turns pyrrhic but is an achievement greater than any other for him. Again Mise en scene elements are used to present this.
When Bertie first meets Lionel, he is seen to be very narrow minded and pessimistic. His hope is not present and now is his confidence. Hooper introduces Bertie as a man in the midst of despair and it is his speech impediment that he blames it on. Bertie goes forth to sit in front of a dirty looking and very rugged wall with lots of missing paint. This wall is depicts Bertie as man who has something missing, he is scruffy and confused and disconnected. He is being trapped by this stonewall. Hooper then juxtaposes this by positioning Lionel in front of a grand and open room. The viewer gets an immediate perception of Lionel being an open minded and ordered man. However when Lionel brings Bertie to read Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech, Bertie stands tall in the center of an open space. Lionel has opened a window behind him that acts metaphorically as a symbol of hope. This window into the world is Bertie’s opening to victory.
He reads the speech fluently and orderly. The camera sweeps from the scruffy wall that was once behind Bertie into a frame which he takes focus on. Hooper is showing how Bertie has the abilities he thought were so foreign to him and forebodes Bertie’s victory. As the movie progresses, it comes to a scene just after Bertie has been assigned king. After signing the papers his walks out of a building into a crowd of grey reporters and photographers. He is presented as a figure of authority however it is evident he is lacking leadership. This becomes another test for Bertie. When he sits in his car the faces of those people he is leading come into focus over Bertie’s face. This illustrates how he is positioned below these people. He is not worthy of being a King to them. When the time comes to deliver his speech, Bertie struggles significantly.
The camera presents a mouse eye view shot of his audience towering over Bertie. They are seen to be intimidating and oppressing to Bertie. He is meant to be leading them yet they stand above him as if he is theirs. As he fails to read his speech, portraits of his passed leaders and family come into the frame, last of which is his dad staring down upon him. The man who has oppressed and driven all confidence out of Bertie and essentially caused his impediment is still standing above him even after death. Bertie looks to him and a feeling of failure comes into play. He is presented now with the test of proving he is worthy enough to be a king. Not just to prove his father wrong but also to show himself that he can lead his country and stand above all who don’t believe him. The end of the movie is where Bertie is seen to have conquered all these tests. As fellow officials greet him they stand equal to him, not towering above him or staring down upon him, equal. Bertie has proved his worthiness of his authority.
He has been victorious over his confidence. When it comes to reading the war speech Bertie again stands tall with a window next to his side. A beautifully elegant and patterned wall is placed behind him, although this time there is space between him and the wall. He has been victorious over his confusion and close mindedness. Hooper through composition presents Bertie as a man standing tall and ready. He is a completely new man to who he was. He has become victorious over who he once was, an oppressed and pessimistic man. Now he is a King that is the voice of hope. He talks about war whilst conquering his challenges. Whilst talking almost fluently, the camera shows his face through the blurred microphone. He is not talking into the microphone but to his country. The ‘victory’ Bertie has is for many different reasons.
Sound adds a whole new aspect of meaning to The King’s Speech. The choice of music in certain scenes was a deliberate decision that tells the story in more depth. Whilst Bertie is powerfully reading “To be or not to be” Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro plays loud over his voice. Although you cannot hear his voice, from his lip movements and Lionel’s facial expression you can tell he reads the speech fluently. The song was a continuation of an old story and describes “A day of madness”. Bertie speaking with such bliss is such an incredible feet that it being ‘mad’ is not an understatement. However this shows how even though fluent speech is possible, it is a long way away. The song illustrates the test Bertie is facing. Whilst Bertie walks in to announce his taking of the throne, silence is broken by the sound of Bertie’s footsteps.
This creates a tense and suspenseful feeling that makes you empathize with Bertie. Desplat’s ‘Memories of Childhood’ fades in slowly as he begins to read his speech. The camera begins to pan from Bertie’s face to his past leaders and family and finally his father. The song implies that the reason Bertie is failing to read his speech is due to these ‘Childhood Memories’. This added with the image of his father create another ‘test’ that Bertie takes on, to overcome his childhood memories to conquer the remorse over his father. Hooper uses this choice of music to imply how Bertie’s childhood has left him corrupt.
The war speech is read with almost fluent speech. Meanwhile Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 plays loud and triumphant. Bertie’s announces the beginning of war with equal volume to this music. As he peaks with fluidity the music’s builds up too. He inevitably becomes part of the music as his voice blends into the smooth and harmonious sounds. Hooper is suggesting that Bertie has overcome his speech impediment and has been victorious. The music’s hype implies that Bertie is now a King and not a corrupted man taunted by childhood memories. Hooper is telling us that Bertie has triumphed over all his tests and come out strong.
Hooper uses lighting to convey Bertie’s emotional side of his test’s and challenges. In the early scene at Lionel’s house, there is a very monotone and bland color that fills each frame. This runs along with Bertie’s pessimistic and dull manor in which he conducts himself. He is very bitter and narrow minded, with little expression of emotion. Although his whole face is l, it is very boring and weak. Bertie is portrayed as a character dependent on others; he is incapable of holding himself up. This is another test in which victory is far from being achieved. Bertie is disconnected due to his affliction, from himself and his life. He is seen to almost dissolve into the scrappy wall behind him.
The color in his face is similar if not the same grey-scale as the wall. Hooper is suggested that Bertie is physical structure with no emotion or human attributions. However as soon as he begins to read “To be or not to be” he stands bright and contrasted against the wall he was once apart of. This same greyness is shown in Bertie’s King speech. Although he stands tall, he is weak and frail inside. He has made no progress in his personal test. His father still oppresses him and his memories still make him bleak. During his speech his eyes are barely visible. This reinforces how he is emotionally instable. The eyes are the opening to your soul, yet Bertie’s eyes are not there.
His soul is not with him in that room. Due to his oppressed state his soul has fled with his confidence. However as Bertie evolves as a character he progresses with all his tests. Whilst reading his war speech his eyes shine bright and strong. His soul has been fulfilled with his confidence and pride. Lionel turns off the red light because “we don’t want that evil eye staring at you”; this is the eye of his father. Hooper is evoking a sense of achievement into his audience’s perception of Bertie. His face is almost artificially lit showing his coming out as a man and as a King. He is strong and open and is he’s own man. Hooper uses lighting to show Bertie’s personal struggle and victory in The King’s Speech.
Bertie is a character that is presented heavily with challenges and test throughout the whole movie. His speech impediment is the major challenge however is linked with other difficulties. Overcoming his childhood oppression from his father and being his own man are critical for Bertie in order to lead his country. Chamberlain warns Bertie “that your greatest test is yet to come”. Hooper uses lighting, sound and Mise en scene elements to present this test, as how he overcomes these challenges is his final speech. In this scene Bertie is presented as a new man. His well face and eyes are well lit and his emotions hold together strong.
He stands away from the wall that is elegant and orderly, a symbol of Bertie himself. He has been able to overcome all his challenges with the help of his first friend, Lionel. He is no longer corrupt or oppressed and no longer relies on others. He is his own man and is the man he wants to be. Bertie evolves throughout the story from a weak and confused man into a strong and stable King. He turns into the voice of the hope that leads his country into a time of oppression. The ‘test’ suggested by Chamberlain is whether Bertie can overcome his oppression and faults to lead his country into what he has just concurred.
Courtney from Study Moose
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