Friday, September 25, 2009

The Madness of King George -- Movie Review

The Madness of King George has an outstanding cast, excellent production, beautiful music adapted from Handel. It received the Art Direction Oscar in 1994. I wouldn’t buy it as a gift or even watch it for any type of relaxing entertainment. The theme of this movie is far too intense. I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I’m glad I did. Nigel Hawthorne is outstanding as King George.

George III was the last King of America. Our Declaration of Independence paints a scathing portrait of him, evil, tyrannical, all the reasons for the American Revolution. Much of this is unwarranted.

We weren’t so much anti-monarchy; we just didn’t want George III. In fact, at the constitutional debates, the proposal to have a king was actively discussed.

The subject of this movie is why did George, at the mid-point of his long life (1738 – 1820) begin to exhibit such strange behavior and how did people handle it? It is at times quite a terrifying story.

The movie begins in 1788. The king still refers to America as the “colonies, and his powerful Prime Minister Pitt reminds him that America is now a new country.

George is showing increasing signs of his life-shattering illness. We now believe that the illness was porphyria, which causes irrational speech and bizarre behavior. There are remissions, which George experienced. The disease has never been completely diagnosed in him, although the suspicions are very strong. Symptoms may have been present years before.

It exposed him to the appalling medial treatment of the time. His high rank did not protect him. As his symptoms at times intensified, there was a lot of political talk about establishing a regency with his eldest son, George, indolent, immoral, championed by Fox, a leading political leader strongly disliked by the King. The Prime Minister, Pitt, was against it. King George knew that Fox had a very bad influence on his son.

The medical treatment at times became very harsh, and the movie spares nothing to describe it. George showed great courage against hopeless odds. I feel great sadness for him.

The movie is described as a comic biopic. I couldn’t disagree more. Oh sure, there are amusing comments, but generally the mood is very dark. The genuine affection between George and his wife is very touching. It does not diminish, although the doctors separate them in his illness.

The movie ends of a brighter note. The Kin is in remission, so there is no need for a regency. He waves and basks in the roar of the cheering crowds. His family is with him, even the regent, whom the father heartily despises.

Today, the British monarchy is fully constitutional, which means it doesn’t have a lot to do. It receives visitors, goes on vacations, and sometimes makes goodwill tours. There is also parliamentary protocol which sometimes needs attention.

Above all, the tabloid-featured Royal Family is very good for tourism. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

Media Mania from FriendsOf1776: Sweet Liberty; 1776; The Patriot; Liberty! PBS Series

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