Looking for feedback on how to reach the excellence level for my film essay.
Questions: Analyse how a character was used to develop a message in the visual or oral text(s).
In the film “The King’s Speech”, directed by Tom Hooper, the audience is invited to explore what it means to overcome adversity. To consider whether we can truly defeat our fears or if being ‘free’ from them ever really meant their absence. Bertie, publicly known as King George VI, is a character with a uniquely human feel. An ordinary man, who is also obliged to fulfil the very unfamiliar duty of being royalty, embarking on the universally shared journey that is facing our personal fears. Tom Hooper uses a variety of film techniques in conjunction with personal experience to help the audience understand Bertie, in which we come to know that the process of growing in confidence to face our fears is naturally guided through trusting communication in friendship.
Throughout the opening sequence, the director uses a combination of camera angles, shot composition and a motif to create a surprisingly ordinary impression of the character of Bertie. We meet a man who straight away feels anxious and vulnerable, a stark contrast to what we would expect of a future King. Bertie’s internal struggle and discomfort is purposefully crafted by Hooper to clearly illustrate his dominating fear of speaking that holds him back. The first shot of Bertie is invasive and uneasy. Tom Hooper uses extreme close ups on Bertie’s face in which the audience suddenly feels like they are invading his personal space. We see the tension in his taut facial expressions. The camera focuses on his jaw which he tenses. We see his eyes flickering in terror. The directors purpose here is to instantly connect with the audience as we can easily and almost painfully understand the suffocating, overwhelming feeling of anxiety that comes before doing something that terrifies us.
Before Bertie ascends the stairs the Archbishop of Canterbury tells him to “let the microphone do the work.” However, this does little to comfort Bertie. The idea that the microphone must do the ‘work’ insinuates that Bertie is incapable of speaking without assistance. The microphone is a symbol of Berties lack of control and understanding of his fear. The microphone is shot in focus to illustrate its dominance over Bertie and to show the audience how intimidated he is at the prospect of speaking publicly. His stammer does not stem from the inability to speak rather a psychological blockage. His relationship with the Archbishop is a common one for Bertie. Being born into the Royal family has meant that throughout Bertie’s life he has had to maintain Royal protocol in his relationships with others. Bertie’s childhood trauma combined with his lack of genuine friendship has allowed his stammer to worsen. These surface level relationships, such as with the Archbishop, serve no emotional connection or support for Bertie. They are obligatory connections with people who are tied to him simply because he is the son of a King. This constant formality only deepens his fear, leaving him unequipped and seemingly prohibited from processing his emotions. This bottling up of feelings is essentially what created the emotional blockage that prevents him from speaking freely.
The director uses a very high camera angle to show Bertie walking up the stairs before making his Speech at Wembley Stadium. This is to make him look small, weak and minimised. This is reflective of how Bertie feels about himself at the moment before he must speak publicly. This camera angle feels like it is from the microphones point of view. The insignificance of Bertie is contrasted with the low angle shot of the microphone, making it seem as if it is looming over him, condescending and powerful. As he climbs we share his terror and anticipation as the camera follows him slowly up the steps. Bertie is established in a way that the whole audience can identify with, feeling consumed by our fears. The struggle of having to face things we are afraid to do can leave us feeling out of control, weak and judged. Hooper does this to normalise Bertie and his battles. Bertie desperately wants to succeed in his duties and serve his people as King. He is yet to find a balance in which he can fulfil that role while starting to explore his past in order to understand his fears and become more comfortable dealing with them. The director foreshadows Berties future transition. Berties discomfort and helplessness is shown in these high angle shots, so that by the end of the film the audience can clearly see his development into his own skin. The audience feels emotionally tied to Bertie and can align with the message that we are not alone in fear, everyone is connected by the journey we must face to control them.
Tom Hooper explores the healing impact that friendships have in understanding ourselves and our fears. He connects with the idea that opening ourselves up to others comes with an element of risk, a sense of vulnerability. Pushing past fear and uncomfort to see the benefits and success that is on the other side of our anxieties parallels with Berties fear of speaking. Throughout the film Berties relationship with Logue develops in which Bertie himself grows a new hopeful mindset, a trust in his own voice. Logue describes his speech therapy techniques in a way completely foreign to Bertie. He says “My job was to give them faith in their voice and let them know that a friend was listening. That must ring a few bells with you, Bertie.” Bertie allows Logue insight into his life during one of their later sessions when Logue allows Bertie to assemble a model plane. The camera holds a mid shot of them at the same level, to show their equality. While Bertie, without stuttering, opens up to Logue. This childhood connection that Bertie lacked allows him to comfortably look back into his past. Berties pain from his childhood and anxiety about his present can no longer trap him once he discusses them with Logue. His therapy with Logue has meant he can finally release that hurt and fear.
Throughout The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper shows the audience the pressure emotional baggage can have on people when they do not have a friend who can help release that tension. This film is not about defeating our fears. He prioritises the success of Bertie’s journey rather than the success of the outcome. From a man dwarfed by his fear of speaking and dictated by that inability to communicate, he perseveres to become a man who understands himself and has accepted who that person is. At the end of this development is a King who can now speak clearly alongside his fear. Hooper purposefully highlights the importance of having someone who is invested enough to care, sympathise and share advice to motivate us to face our fears with courage.