Whether or not you were cranky that it won Best Picture over The Social Network — I’m talking to you, Joe and Tommy (and don’t worry, that film’s coming up here soon) — a lot of people talk about this unusual composition from the impeccably crafted The King’s Speech when Bertie first meets with Logue in his dingy office. I noted it upon first viewing, and came up with a few theories of my own and had many a conversation about it with my filmmaker friends, as did lots of film-goers, lay people alike, I’ve come to learn.
My first inclination was that the walls around Bertie remind us that he is a slave to the royal institution – that the social structure all around him is an oppressive and ever present force. Why not, right?
Hooper Explains The King’s Speech Composition
I got to listen to director Tom Hooper at the DGA symposium of nominated best directors for 2010 (he would win), and his explanations were both simpler and more far-fetched:
On the esoteric side, he said he wanted the negative space around Colin Firth to visually represent the painful emptiness Bertie feels when stuttering – those awkward, hanging pauses that torture someone just trying to express themselves. (The ragged texture of the wallpaper I think adds to this, though I don’t think Hooper commented on that specifically.)
On a more practical level, he wanted to visually suggest the discomfort between Logue and Bertie, by filming them in starkly contrasting and disparate, unnatural compositions. As their relationship grows throughout the film, the shots grow more and more properly composed and comfortable.
Straight from the horse’s mouth!
Here’s the oft-talked-about scene below. Note that according to Hooper, the wallpaper was a totally found element, i.e. it came with the location! Best find ever. Another tidbit: due to some real-estate fraud, the building was reclaimed half-way through filming and only through great effort and bureaucratic maneuvering did they get back in to finish. Ah, production.
Added bonus, this clip ends with the biggest laugh in the movie, I think:
Let me know if you think it cool & poetic, or if you maybe found it distracting and too abstract. I, myself, dig anything thoughtful and unexpected so long as it doesn’t feel gratuitous. Fine line, that. I think this is the former.
Please take the poll and check back for the results as they come in!