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Themes in Scripts

I stayed up too late again last night and watched The King’s Speech.  I love this movie and I will get hooked by it every time.  Happened again this morning as I was preparing breakfast.  Partly it’s the performances.  Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are simply remarkable in a what is, in many senses, a buddy movie.  The music is pitch perfect in terms of eliciting mood, but something else jumped out at me on this viewing.

In scripts we have A stories, and we also have B stories and sometimes a C runner that tends to be lighter, almost comedic.  The A story is very big in The King’s Speech, but there is a B story that echoes back themes to the A story which is what a good secondary story or runner should do.  It can’t be too obvious, too on the nose or it will make an audience giggle or be irritated, but it should be there.

They did it perfectly in this movie.  There’s the scene where Lionel Logue goes to audition for an amateur theater group who are going to be performing Richard III.  To my American ears he sounds lovely, but there is one hesitation where he briefly stumbles over the next word, and he’s cut off.  He is mocked for his Australian accent, that Richard III wasn’t king of the colonies, and he leaves, rejected and disheartened — silenced.

Later in the film there is a scene where Bertie confronts his brother over Wallis Simpson, his brother mocks his stammer and Bertie’s reduced to wordless impotence.

In both cases, the king and a the speech therapist wish/need to speak  and in both cases they are blocked, stopped and mocked. 

You can also create linkage by comparing and contrasting.  The relationship of the fathers to their children is an example of that.  In the beginning there is closeness, then Bertie becomes king and his girls are curtseying to him.  Because Firth is a wonderful actor you see the agony in his face.

This isn’t on the topic of themes, but of using images to indicate a changing relationship rather than using words.  In the first scene where Bertie and Lionel meet, Rush’s chair is placed well back from the Duke.  He even says he has been instructed not to get too close.

But later, when Bertie comes to talk after the death of his father and as the constitutional crises is increasing over the American divorcee they are sitting closer and closer together.  There’s no comment about it.  It just happens, but the emotional note is hit and the audience responds event though they might not know exactly what is affecting them.

This is why I love film so much.  This would require a lot of words in a book.  Here two pictures and we get it.

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