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Panel examines The King’s Speech via multiple perspectives

Emerson faculty members from several disciplines were part of a panel discussion about The King’s Speech before a full house at the Bright Family Screening Room on the evening of March 3. They analyzed “the art and science” of the film from the perspectives of a filmmaker, a screenwriter, a vocal and dialect coach, and two speech pathologists. The King’s Speech recently won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

“This film in so many ways ties together everything that is Emerson,” said Dean of the School of Communication Janis Andersen, who moderated the event. She pointed out Emerson’s “common roots” as a school of oratory and the “branches” of performing arts, communication science, visual and media arts, and communication, and noted that the movie was very relevant to all of these fields.

The King’s Speech is about King George VI of England, played by Colin Firth, who suffers from a debilitating speech impediment. After enduring a number of failed attempts at rehabilitation, the king’s wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), arranges for her husband to see an unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The film portrays the relationship between the therapist and his client as they work to overcome the king’s disorder.

The panelists were Professor and Chair Daniel Kempler and Associate Professor Amit Bajaj from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Assistant Professor Diane Lake and Scholar-in-Residence Kenneth Feil from the Department of Visual and Media Arts, and Scholar-in-Residence and speech coach Amelia Broome from the Department of Performing Arts.

Kempler and Bajaj discussed the authenticity of the portrayal of speech therapy in the film. Kempler said the film showed “a huge amount of truth about the field [of communication sciences and disorders]” and liked the emphasis on the importance of the patient/therapist relationship. Bajaj, who teaches courses on disfluency (stuttering) and once suffered from it himself, said many of the therapy techniques highlighted in the film are similar to those used by modern speech pathologists.

From a filmmaking perspective, Lake and Feil praised the emotion in the film and the cinematography methods. Lake thought the use of sentimentality in the film bucked recent trends. She also suggested that the king’s fear of public speaking was something that resonated with audiences. In discussing the camera work, Feil mentioned a specific shot in which the character of Lionel Logue realizes he has overstepped his bounds. “It was a single shot against a very graphic wallpaper background,” Feil said. “It drew attention to the actor as he was having an epiphany.”

The panel followed a special Emerson screening of the film, which was arranged by Emerson trustee Steven Samuels, a Boston real estate developer and film producer who owns the international rights toThe King’s Speech.

Samuels introduced the film and told the audience when it was first brought to him, it was an independent, “little, tiny film” and that he had been surprised and pleased by its widespread success.

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