Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oscar Countdown: The King's Speech

In a film about one man’s struggle to find his voice and about the talented (and intersubjective) speech therapist who helps him to do so, we find the contemporary analytic attitude of the psychotherapeutic consulting room. In The King’s Speech, Colin Firth as “Bertie”/Prince Albert/King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as the failed actor/speech therapist Lionel Logue enter into a relationship whose endeavor can succeed only through mutual recognition, no easy task for a patient who is used to subjects of the Crown, not those who would be subjects of independent action, desire, and will. Not only does Logue insist on recognition and otherness, he also balances compassion for Bertie’s plight. Logue asks about earliest memories, discusses the Prince’s childhood and understands his anger and humiliation. Whether sharing fears or shouting obscenities, Logue allows for play, spontaneity, and creativity, opening the space to where Bertie’s speech is stutter-free.

Just as we set aside the transgressions, and sometimes heinous crimes, of our patients in order to be useful to them and to experience the world from their perspective, so we need, in The King’s Speech, to set aside historical context. The Monarch King George VI stood for an Empire which subjugated nations while colonizing one quarter of the planet, and Prime Minister Chamberlain, in a failed appeasement, conceded to Hitler in the Munich Pact. Then we can watch, with immense enjoyment, this sometimes humorous, sometimes emotional, historical film about one individual’s struggle to reach his potential. The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper, is the frontrunner for the Oscars, having garnered twelve nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Helena Bonham Carter as the supportive wife Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Elizabeth (II) and Margaret.

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