The King’s Speech (2010) – Part 2 – The Power of Editing: Juxtapositions


Note: Notwithstanding some exceptions, my goal in my posts is not at all to recap entire films; I aim to share interesting aspects and scenes of films which are particularly striking to me. In two posts on The King’s Speech, I will discuss two of these interesting sections (one per part).

Directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams). Starring Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice; A Single Man; Love Actually), Geoffrey Rush (Shine; Quills; Shakespeare in Love), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club; Planet of the Apes; Alice in Wonderland).

In this stirring and uplifting 2010 period drama (set in the late 1930s, with the final speech set in 1939), Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter play the Duke (“Bertie”) and Duchess of York. Rush plays Lionel Logue, an Australian Speech therapist whose relationship with the Duke, although initially abrasive, becomes increasingly personal and meaningful. Following the abdication of the throne by David, the Duke’s brother, the Duke becomes King of England. Logue assists the Duke in order to prepare him for his first radio broadcast during the war, which will announce Britain’s decision to go to war against Germany.


The meaning in film editing comes not from two shots but rather from the cut in between them. In other words, editing can create meaning through association, or juxtaposition. Two juxtapositions from a section of The King’s Speech stood out to me and will be discussed here.

 Setting the scene: Lionel Logue, speech therapist who has arranged for his first meeting/consultation with Bertie (with whom he has not yet met), auditions for the part of Richard III in front of three evaluators:

As Logue prepares to begin, he smirks. To me, this communicates extreme (and deluded) confidence in the way he is about to perform. He has a passion for acting, and since, as he verbally indicates, he has played Richard before and was “well reviewed,” he most likely believes that he is highly skilled.

With his arm, Logue poorly feigns a crippled state and gets into his, so to speak, acting zone:

He performs the following opening lines from Richard III:

“Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York; And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths…”

Here is the part that interests me most: when Logue gets to the pun “by this son,” he looks up:

He says the word ‘son’ louder than any other word. This could indicate that, instead of acting realistically, Logue chooses to demonstrate in a far-from-subtle way that he understands Shakespeare’s clever, sophisticated wordplay (on ‘son’ vs. ‘sun’). In addition, he emphasizes this word by looking up. Look here at what he gazes at:

Let’s see… a giant white light…on the ceiling (a.k.a. sky)…illuminating the room…and Logue stares at it after emphasizing the word ‘son’…it’s the sun! This was a clever juxtaposition and creative decision on the part of Tom Hooper and his production team. Cutting to this shot demonstrates that Logue is more preoccupied with the text he is reading than being absorbed in the character that he is portraying. He is an intellectual man, and it shows here more than ever.

I’m aware that subtle allusions to Richard III continue throughout the film and are applicable to the film’s content and theme. However, I want to solely focus on the editing in this particular scene.

So that’s juxtaposition one. There’s another striking one which bridges this scene and the next scene, during which Logue meets Bertie.

At the end of the scene, one of the evaluators — the director — gives Logue scathing feedback. He says, “Yes…well…Lionel, I think our dramatic society is looking for someone slightly younger and a little more regal.”

First of all, the fact that Logue is not regal himself (and clearly cannot play someone with royal aspirations) sets up more of a contrast/disparity between him and Bertie (a member of the most important family in the nation), which is made clearly through the initial tension of their relationship and the shot framing techniques discussed in my The King’s Speech Part 1 post.

Second of all, after the word ‘regal,’ the scene ends, and we then see Bertie and his wife get into a tiny, caged elevator which will take them up to the workspace of Lionel Logue for their first meeting. They struggle to close the gates and fit in the elevator. They are as far from regal as one can imagine! It is interesting that Hooper chooses to place this struggle directly after the idea of not being regal. So what is the meaning? Bertie is at the beginning of his journey. He is rough around the edges and has almost given up hope of ever being able to speak clearly and confidently in public like other members of his royal family. He truly is, at this point in the film, far from regal.

Stills from the elevator sequence:

One more noteworthy item for this post, going back to the Logue audition scene. First, check out my Part 1 post if you missed it:

The King’s Speech Part 1

The stifling, far-from-conventional shot framing (based on the directions in which they are looking, they are placed on ‘wrong’ side of their respective) between Logue and the play director portrays discomfort and disconnect. Logue feels rejected and embarrassed as the director expresses discontent with his performance. The disconnect comes from the fact that Logue thought he performed quite well while the director did not see brilliance in him.

Framing of the director:

Framing of Logue:

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