Friday, February 4, 2011

What Does ‘The King’s Speech’ Have to Do With Art?


If you haven’t seen ‘The King’s Speech’ yet, I tried to not spoil any major plot points, but if you want to go into the movie and be surprised, you may want to wait to read this post until after you’ve seen the movie.  Go on and see it, I’ll wait.


Over the weekend I was able to go see ‘The King’s Speech’.  I had heard lots of good things about it from my friends at Facebook, and my husband was also interested in seeing it, so it was an obvious choice.  Sunday afternoon we headed out to take in the early afternoon matinee.

Two hours later I walked out of the theater feeling energized and uplifted.  The simple story of how King George VI worked with speech coach Lionel Logue to overcome his stutter and lead his country during the dark days of World War II made me cringe, made me laugh, and ultimately made me cry. 

And then it made me think.  I empathized with Colin Firth’s Bertie, not only because he agonized at the prospect of having to lead his country during wartime, but also because he was a person who had not yet owned his voice.  He could speak clearly and smoothly under a few conditions, but he seemed to have trouble with even every day conversation. 

How does this relate to art, you ask? 

Well, we often talk about seeing a person’s voice in their work.  Some works are muddied and the vision is unclear, while other pieces make our hearts sing.  I think there are a lot of similarities between the artist sitting at the easel, drawing board, or sewing machine, struggling to get out of their own way and let their voice out, and Bertie, struggling to get out a single word.

Blocks that kept Bertie from speaking clearly included early childhood trauma and present family teasing.  How many artists have trouble creating because of what a teacher or family member may have said to them when they shared their early art?

The most important thing that struck me near the end of the movie was when we were shown how Bertie was afraid to take on his authority.  He didn’t believe he could be bigger, and he was afraid to be bigger.  This made him angry when it was pointed out to him. How often do we act the same way in regards to our art?  We may not stammer, but we find other ways to stop our work from getting out, whether it is spending too much time on the internet, taking on other people’s problems, or even making art, but maybe not the art that we really want to make.

Of course we know what happens with Bertie, all we have to do is look at a history book.  In the film you could see the change in how he carried himself. At the end of the speech his shoulders were squared and he walked confidently out to greet his people.  He had found his voice.

What steps can you take to let your voice be heard in your work?


  1. Wow! I love the connections you made there. Steps I really need to take include setting aside specific times to work on things (and not feeling guilty about it) and not spending as much time vegging out. Also, I tend to take on other people's problems too much; currently I have 40 years of photos stacked on my dining room table that I promised my mother I would organize for her....

  2. Supportive friends also help a lot, there may be a second post about that. He could not have done it without Lionel standing firm for him. It's always good to know you have someone else who believes in you. It sounds like you have a good grip on what steps you need to take. :)

  3. Art and life! Great analogy, Andrea. Makes me want to see the movie even more.

  4. Thanks Gayle! I wish my brain had been this analytical in college ;) It really is a good story, I'm glad we got to see it.