Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.
Based on the true story of the Queen of England’s father and his remarkable friendship with maverick Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. The film stars Colin Firth as King George VI who unexpectedly becomes King when his brother Edward abdicates the throne. Geoffrey Rush stars as Logue, the man who helps the King find a voice with which to lead the nation into war. The multi-award-winning cast includes Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall & Michael Gambon
Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough of a framework for you to discuss the movie:
- What stood out as the main highlights in the movie?
- What assumptions were embedded in the story?
- What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
- What biblical or theological themes come to mind that engage with the story?
The following provides some particular aspects of the movie that could be a catalyst for further discussion and reflection.
The story begins when the main character is still Prince Albert of York (‘Bertie’ to his family). He dreaded those occasions when he was called upon to speak at public events, due to his severe stammering problem. “They believe that when I speak, I speak on their behalf, but I can’t speak.” He knew his public role required him to step up, despite his private fears, trepidation and trauma. He displays the courage needed to overcome his personal limitations.
How might the anguish of regular public humiliations give new insight into the call of Moses (who similarly had a speech problem)? Or to any of the biblical characters who felt inadequate or ill-prepared in one form or another (too young -David, Jeremiah; too old – Sarah and Abraham,; or perhaps a foreigner, a woman etc).
What might the experience of some of these characters say to us, as we perceive our own strengths and weaknesses? What does it say about our preparedness to bracket off some misgivings or feelings of inadequacy in order to participate more fully in the vision for a transformed world of peace, love and joy?
‘Slow’ movement in a fast paced world
We are shaped by an ‘instant’ way of living – fast food, instant gratification, instant rewards, instant communication. Sometimes the same ‘instant’ and immediate approach can define our relationships. Logue the speech therapist recognises the speech problem as a symptom of something much deeper and complex, and commits himself to being a friend and confidante of Bertie. The relationship requires time, patience and ingenuity. In time, Bertie comes to trust Logue, and this unlikely friendship gives Bertie the support he needs in the most difficult of times.
Relationships can be complex, demanding and challenging, made more difficult in a fast paced lifestyle adopted by so many people today. What might this long term and ‘slow’ approach to relationships invite us to consider in our own relationships?
The orthodox – and the unorthodox
The eccentric speech therapist uses controversial and unorthodox methods. It creates the drama in the movie. He becomes an unlikely hero. In reality, many people who work outside of or with some disregard for the ‘norms’ or what is considered ‘orthodox’ are not always welcomed. New and creative approaches, fresh insights, or even just ‘having a go and seeing what happens’ may be perceived as challenging and divisive, and to be resisted. Many people experience a lack of a ‘permission giving’ culture when trying to bring about innovation or fresh approaches. Even Jesus experienced denigration and hostility from the religious leaders in his teaching and relationships who saw him as a threat, which led to his death by the collusion of religious and political authorities.
How does this dynamic of orthodox:unorthodox resonate with your experience?
The two royal brothers are contrasted in the movie – the older one is portrayed as a selfish and even frivolous man prepared to abandon his responsibilities for love of a married woman; the younger one is portrayed as a quiet and dignified man prepared to honour even the minor responsibilities he had in public life as a Prince and then a King – despite the personal trauma it caused him. He doesn’t give up, but pushes on until he is able to achieve what he needs to do.
Loyalty, perseverance and responsibility are pillars for some in their self-understanding, while others are less willing to give them elevated status and value. For some, such differences will be apparent in their family of origin or extended family. Others may identify it in work relationships. Others may experience it as a difference between those who are prepared to give their all to something – even at great cost to family and private life, whereas others don’t seem to be willing to share the same commitment.
Sometimes, the ‘Protestant work ethic’* drives some to take responsibility quite seriously, especially the ‘builders’ and ‘boomers’ generation. There can emerge a ‘moral high ground’ in how one perceives others who don’t seem to have the same commitment, and Gen X, Y and Z can be accused of being ‘less loyal’. ‘less committed’, ‘less responsible’.
What might be the ‘drivers’ for your own sense of responsibility and commitment?
(The Protestant work ethic is based upon the Calvinist notion of the necessity for hard work as a component of a person’s calling and worldly success and as a sign of personal salvation. The Protestants beginning with Martin Luther reconceptualised worldly work as a duty that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace. The Calvinist and Lutheran theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved, by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. Since it was impossible to know if one was predestined, the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was predestined by observing their way of life, of which hard work and frugality were important signs).
President Obama is a gifted orator who inspired people. But it would also be true to say that people had grown to know him through reading his books – learning about his multi-ethnic background, his commitment to community development, his failures and disappointments, as well as his hard word. It is the quality of the man, not just his inspiring ‘yes, we can’ speeches, that caught the imagination of the world.
The public warmed to Bertie nor because he was a brilliant orator but because they knew the integrity of the man; the inspiration they derived from the speeches was not just through carefully crafted speeches but because people felt a strong connection with him as an ‘ordinary’ man who was not remote from their trials and tribulations.
In what ways does the ‘rhetoric’ and careful scripting of speeches by contemporary public figures give comfort or caution, and reflect integrity, or lack thereof? Who are the public figures who elicit your regard and esteem, and why?
© Rev Sandy Boyce 25th September 2010 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
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