When any artist or director embarks on the journey of creation, they use a variety of different techniques to aid in the conveying of their message. Their main goal is to create something special for their audience, or rather call them witnesses. Convincing them that a personal piece of art, whether it be a painting, a novel or a movie, is different than all the rest. Rhetoricians create an author’s idea, their own unique perception of reality, for a vast and diverse viewing audience.
The Kings Speech is a movie about talking, and the importance of talking well. The way humans communicate is really the most important challenge we face in our everyday lives. Speaking is hugely important on an intimate, personal level; when the task is to interact with one person. But a leader of a nation has to address all of his subjects, which requires that leader to be able to speak eloquently in a dramatic political context. As Bertie so finely delivers his lines in the closing moments, as King George VI is about to first address his subjects with war on the horizon: “The Nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I cannot speak.” This superb film is about a person finding his voice, finding that he can speak. The Duke of York, later King George V, a.k.a Bertie is a perfect example of a leader; he has it all except for one thing – he lacks delivery skills. The hero has a single problem, the conflict that needs resolving; any intelligent viewer will keep their eyes on that detail through the entire plot. A well-written story will gradually reveal information, leaving the audience with a thirst to know if and how this issue will be solved. What makes the King’s battle with speech even more powerful is that this specific detail is not only about a speaking impediment that can be a burden to its owner but it is also about the drama in several other layers of the story. As the duke mentions, his people look up to him as he who speaks for them and in their name. Not only can it be frustrating for a nation not to have a voice; that nation is in war with another nation whose ruler can “say it rather well”. Bertie is up against some large obstacles on his path to becoming King, and the stakes are high, the fate of an entire country lies in the words of its future leader, the King better be able to say those words clearly.
This is far more than a movie about a King finding his voice. The Kings Speech is an exposition of the power that language has over individuals, and vast audiences. Rhetoric depends upon audience, and Bertie’s impediment was due as much to the pressure of his Imperial audience as it was his horrid father and family in how they treated him and his need for “corrections.” Our hero in this story has to overcome the painful memories that compose his troubled royal childhood. The King’s complex past appeals to the audience’s sense of Pathos, so that every time he stammers over a sentence we remember who and what it is that causes Bertie’s handicap. Seeing the King start to succeed and triumph over his condition appeals to the viewer’s emotions for the same reason, because they have witnessed the cold, harsh environment where Bertie was raised. Audiences rejoice because seeing the main character master their own problems gives them hope and strength to take on personal matters of their own. Another aspect of the King’s troubled past is his relationship with his brother. He lived in the shadow of his brother Edward VIII for much of his life, and Edward was the actual heir to the throne when their father died. However, Edward abdicated the throne when he revealed that he wanted to marry an American socialite. This places further pressure on George VI to succeed in delivering this important speech to prove himself to his family and people as a strong and able leader.
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