There's a pivotal scene in The King's Speech in which the soon-to-be coronated King George VI, splendidly portrayed by Colin Firth, shuts down Westminster Abbey so he and his speech therapist (a pitch-perfect Geoffrey Rush) can practice his coronation there in total privacy. This is despite the vociferous objections of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Derek Jacobi), who protests not only the timing of the closure (there is still much preparation to be done) but also the ascendancy of upstart speech therapist Loionel Logue, who is not really a credentialed doctor. Even worse, Logue is Australian. Horrors!
Viewers cheer when the rising king defends his friend and therapist, overriding the archbishop's objections in his first autocratic act as sovereign. The message of the film is that Logue helps the king, whom he insists upon calling "Bertie," to find his voice, and that it is only through finding that voice that Bertie can overcome his stuttering problem and eventually stand up against Hitler, the demon of the age.
There's no historical evidence that this scene ever happened, or that King George VI had to go toe-to-toe with a disapproving archbishop in order to continue working with his speech therapist. That David Seidler's screenplay includes this very postmodern scene is a fascinating anachronism: institutional religion is portrayed as out of date and stifling of personal freedom; only the strong and inwardly spiritual can rise above religion's class-based function as a bulwark of The Way Things Have Always Been. We rejoice when Bertie listens to the wisdom of his friend and therapist rather than acceding to the demands of the worldly, self-serving Church.
And that's ironic, since this is above all a film about duty and loyalty -- old-fashioned values that are presented here with a surprisng absence of postmodern irony or cynicism. The film stakes a claim that duty to family and nation should be paramount in nearly all circumstances. But the Church, if it is not an obstacle, is irrelevant at best, and something to be brushed aside.
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Check Out Movie Studies for Adult Groups from The Thoughtful Christian
Faith and Film: A Guidebook for Leaders, by Edward N. McNulty