How many of us went through absolute ordeals in places like – lecture halls, board rooms, business meetings, school plays, even just been asked to say a few words on behalf of the department to a leaving colleague. Not all of us could get words out easily and be eloquent to deliver a speech, a presentation, a show.
It was a nerve racking experience when I gave the first lesson at a primary school in China. I spent long time doing the preparation. I wrote down everything I was going to say and locked myself in my tiny cell at home. I practised, practised, day and night. I practised on my brother and his best friend (our neighbour). I thought I’d be fine. But when the day came, I felt sick thinking about having to speak to 56 little kids sitting there and I knew none of them. Plus, my teacher was going to sit at the back marking my performance.
I stared at those innocent little faces and they stared at me with curiosity and anticipation. I did not know how I finished the lesson. But I remember the first few minutes, I was struggling to get words out – I had the most dreadful thought: I CANNOT REMEMBER A THING!
Once I calmed down, smiled and got my first sentence out (nervously), I did not stop talking until the time was up.
King George VI of Britain had a stammer.
I did not know this until recently I came across that part of British history.
During Christmas festive period, JF and I watched the new episodes of Upstairs and Downstairs. Must say they aren’t as good as old series. But good enough to see them back to the screen with a sentimental touch. One episode we saw Wallace Simpson was invited to the party. I told JF that British public did not seem to like that Simpson woman.
So we started a conversation about what happened to the monarch during that time. I was very surprised to find out how little JF actually knew that part of history. Being a Chinese, I know much more about the romance between the King and the twice divorced American commoner, a socialite. However, neither of us knew much about prince Edward’s brother Bertie apart from the fact that he became the King George VI after Edward abdicated in order to marry Mrs Simpson.
“The 2nd world war was all about Winston Churchill and his victories. The royal family was faded to the background…” JF shrugged.
The King’s Speech focuses on one predicament of King George VI – Bertie’s stammer. He was tongue tight when he was asked to speak in public, even just read out a script, he failed pathetically. And I believe I was not the only one who genuinely felt the horror, the embarrassment and the humiliation written on Colin Firth’s face. Colin deserves an Oscar for his leading role in this film!
Perhaps most of us could relate ourselves to Bertie. After all, under his regal skin, he was only human. Perhaps it was even worse off than all of us because he had no escape – he was not allowed to shy away from his royal duties to his people. We could change our professions (wittily as Lionel, the speech therapist suggested to the Bertie’s wife, Queen Elizabeth). Bertie had no choices.
It was a long project for David Seidler, who began his thorough research during his university study. The Queen Mother asked him not to get the script published when she was still alive as ‘the memories of these events are still too painful”. What made this film more credible is Lionel Logue’s notes and diaries which had survived. They became valuable resources to be consulted when the film finally went to the production.
It is a magnificent film to bring us to a King’s journey of conquering his utmost fear. Brilliantly directly, smartly scripted with that unmistakable British sense of humour and superbly acted by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.
This could be the film of the year!
P.S. Colin Firth won the best actor at the Golden Globe 2011, the best actor at the Bafta and the Oscar 2011. The King’s Speech was the best film at the Oscar.