Monday, 2 May 2011

The Kings Speech

The King's Speech is a British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI (Bertie), who, to overcome his stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The two men slowly become friends as they work together. Bertie relies on Logue to help him with his public speaking engagements.

After his brother Edward VIII abdicates he has to face the prospect of becoming King; something he is not trained or prepared for. The Film culminates in a radio broadcast the new King must make on the day that Britain goes to war with Germany at the beginning of World War II.

Seidler began researching George VI's life after overcoming his own stammer during his youth. Using informed imagination he wrote about the two men's relationship. Nine weeks before filming, Logue's notebooks were discovered and quotations from them were incorporated into the script.

Clip One: 52.16 - 55.16
The Power of Learned Helplessness
The first scene I have selected is when Bertie begins to disclose to Logue his secret family history. These give us a clue to the underlying fears and insecurities that took root in his early childhood. The memory is so painful that at one point he can only disclose the nature of the punishment he received as a child by singing it instead of saying it, (people don't stammer when they sing!).

George VI suffers from what Psychologists call 'learned helplessness'. The American psychologist Martin Seligman's did experiments at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 and developed this theory.

In one experiment Group One dogs were simply put in the harnesses for a period of time and later released. Groups Two and Three consisted of "yoked pairs." A dog in Group 2 would be intentionally subjected to pain by being given electric shocks, which the dog could end by pressing a lever. A Group 3 dog was wired in parallel with a Group 2 dog, receiving shocks of identical intensity and duration, but his lever didn't stop the electric shocks. To a dog in Group 3, it seemed that the shock ended at random, because it was his paired dog in Group 2 that was causing it to stop. For Group 3 dogs, the shock was apparently "inescapable."

Group 1 and Group 2 dogs quickly recovered from the experience, but Group 3 dogs learned to be helpless, and exhibited symptoms similar to chronic clinical depression. Other experiments were performed with different animals with similar results. In all cases, the strongest predictor of a depressive response was lack of control over the aversive stimulus.

Later they discovered that not all dogs suffered from earned helplessness. In fact about a third made a normal recovery. An individuals explanatory style was the key to understanding why people responded differently to adverse events. Although a group of people may experience the same or similar negative events, how each person privately interprets or explains the event will affect the likelihood of acquiring learned helplessness and subsequent depression.

People with pessimistic explanatory style—which sees negative events as permanent ("it will never change"), personal ("it's my fault"), and pervasive ("I can't do anything correctly")—are most likely to suffer from learned helplessness and depression.

This is what Logue finds himself up against in helping the King overcome his natural tendency to inferiority. Everything about his early childhood and history places him as unfit or inept for the task of being King. But Logue think differently. In this scene Bertie becomes more disclosing of his past and Logue, in his compassionate style, gives space for Bertie to express his pain.

This is an important step in helping people reframe their past. They need to be free to express their pain in an environment where they are accepted and respected. Logue provides such an environment for the future King.

Clip Two: 1.02.29 - 1.04.30
The Power of Friendship
If the first scene shows us the power of learned helplessness this next scene shows us the power of friendship. Logue begins to challenge Bertie on his pessimistic interpretation of his own abilities and capacities. He does what the Bible says in Prov 27.6. He 'wounds' Bertie by speaking the truth. It leads to a confrontation where the King reviles and insults him.

Challenging false thinking in others is never easy. They somehow find a perverse comfort in a lie they have lived with for a long time. It's what they have come to know and believe. But like Logue we have to have an interest in the well being of those we serve more than our own sense of fear about confrontation.

Fear of the outcome of speaking the truth is what most often keeps us silent. We hate confrontation. But Jesus loved people enough to tell them the truth. What He said to the rich young ruler was hard, but had the potential to change his life if he really listened. To an ordinary fisherman like Peter He spoke of him being a rock on which He could build. We are often blind to our own potential.

We need friends who can help us see our true calling and destiny. Paul was helped by Barnabas and Timothy was helped by Paul. Esther had an uncle called Mordecai who provoked her to see that she could do more to change history than she was prepared to give herself credit for. Joshua had a Moses; David had a Jonathan; Shadrach, Meshac and Abednego had a Daniel. All these people stepped into something they thought was bigger than them because someone else believed in them.

Who are you helping? Who do you believe in? Moreover who believes in you? Who is challenging false thinking in you?

Clip Three: 1.14.47 - 1.18.13
The Power of Forgiveness
In this scene we see the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness requires great humility. It requires humility to give forgiveness and humility to receive it. Sometimes we can take an offence when we hear the truth. This happened to Bertie. He hid behind loyalty to his brother and the crown. The truth was that he needed help. But Logue too demonstrates humility. He admits that in stating his case he went too far; something that is easy to do when you feel someone is resistant to your words.

What is crucial to learn is that through forgiveness they found each other again. They were able to build again. And This is the power of forgiveness. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, they learned; “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”, Matt 6.12. When Jesus talked about forgiveness He invariably talked about owing money, (see Matt 18). It is a powerful illustration. To be forgiven is to have a debt cancelled. It is written off.

This is how God treats us and it's how He wants us to treat each other. In Christ our debt to God is cancelled. He pays for our sin by His death on the cross. Now He extends forgiveness to us. The test of how deeply this has impacted us is in the way we now choose to relate to each other. Are we forgiving in our attitude? Do we hold a grudge? Are we so offended by what someone said that the truth of what they said is dismissed by us?

I believe a persons spirituality is most truly revealed when they are called upon to forgive. Jesus taught His disciples to make it a part of their regular prayer life. They had to consciously and purposefully forgive. The more we are conscious of our own failings the easier it is to forgive others. Our own brokenness creates compassion in us towards others and makes us less judgemental. It is a divine quality.

Clip Four: 1.25.08 - 1.28.17
The Power of Finding Your Voice
Finally Bertie has come to terms with the inevitable - he would be King. The only choice that remained was for him to decide what kind of King he would be. Now in this clip we see another confrontation. The King has been told that Logue is not formally qualified. He has no acknowledged credentials. Pressure is put on him from his advisers to dismiss Logue, at the most crucial time in his process of finding freedom.

Logue is articulate in his defence, reminding the King that he did not pretend to be anything other than what he was; a speech therapist. This final confrontation sees Logue mocking the King. It elicits a wonderful response where for the first time the King says, "I have a voice!" It is powerful and moving. And at that point Logue changes his tine and agrees with the King adding, "You are the bravest man I know".

Sometimes we can never truly break through into our destiny until we find our voice; until we confess who we are; until we literally speak it out. Your voice is all about your call destiny. It's about your convictions. It's not about a borrowed faith but a faith that is real to you. You own it. You are the one who has been on the journey to know for yourself.

Often in life we learn to live by the expectations of others. Others with powerful personalities can play on our insecurities so that they live out their dreams through us vicariously. Until we find our voice we will be pulled in all kinds of directions, never truly knowing who we are. But finding your voice enables to know what you can say yes to and what you can say no to. It establishes your authority and gains you respect.

Jesus did not allow the religious or political leaders of His day to define Him. He had a voice. He did bend to the whims and wishes of the crowds but declared the truth as He heard it from His Father. And He was faithful to do this even when it cost Him His life. That's why His voice still has impact today. All those who follow Him find their voice too.

Too often what we hear is not a voice but an echo. People are repeating the sound of others instead of finding their voice. We may begin our journey as an echo but we shouldn't stay that way. At some point we must find our voice; that which is truly authentic to us. And a good friend can help us in such a journey as they provoke us to speak what we truly feel instead of what we think people want to hear.

My prayer is that this movie will help you break out of a victim mentality by allowing a friend to help you in your journey of faith. And that as you do, you will find your voice and step into your destiny. Once you have, then perhaps you will be that friend to others so that they can find their voice too.