Discover how talented production designer, Eve Stewart, did recreate astonishing sets to support the message conveyed by the hero(Colin Firth) and to illustrate King George's struggle.
It’s been over a week since the victories for the King’s Speech were announced at the Oscar’s.The King’s Speech took home best picture and Colin Firth won for best actor in his role as King George VI. While I don’t mean to take away any of the glory from the genius performances, I have to bring attention to the set design and art direction. I saw the King’s Speech a few months ago and I still can’t get the images of the dark muddled, peeling walls out of my mind. The King’s Speech, though nominated, did not take home the Oscar for best art direction. However, I think I need to call attention to the finesse of the set designers.Unlike most period films, The King’s Speech did not possess elaborate sets of grand palaces, gaudy chandeliers or sweeping landscape views. The accessories and furnishings were minimal and the camera zeroed in on the characters rather than distracting elements in the room. Without being intrusive or distracting to the story and actors, the walls became seamlessly integrated into the scenes. I am no film expert so forgive my lack of proper terminology, but the tight shots of actors with an expansive wall as a backdrop was incredibly stunning.At times the walls were fabric covered, wallpapered, or my favorite, cracked and peeling wallpaper. Maybe one of the most effective and unobtrusive tools in film is lighting. Lighting can strongly persuade the audience’s mood and emotion. Playing with shadows, the softness or harshness of light in combination with music and, of course the actors, are one of the ways the audience is compelled to feel what the director wishes them to feel. Although we may see busy wallpaper or fabric covered walls, the light immensely mutes them and highlights the characters instead. The King’s Speech is overall filmed in a darker light, creating the sense of the feeling towards the historical events occurring at the time. The period that this film showcases was not very glamorous; in fact, it was during a time of turmoil and war. This film does an outstanding job setting this tone without having to elaborately explain and show the background story of historical events. It is with this subtlety that makes the King’s Speech have some of the best set design that I have seen in a very long time.The office of Lionel Logue (King George’s speech therapist) was filmed at 33 Portland Place in London, just a block away from Logue’s original office. The existing building had already possessed a hint of the deteriorating walls in a small area of the main wall. On January 2, 2011, an article in The Observer states that production designer, Eve Stewart, loved the found half-scraped-half burned off, oil infused, wallpapered walls so much that she reproduced the look over the entire wall. As far as set design goes, this decision is what makes this movie. The concept of a deteriorating wall with peeling layers and colors that have been worked ever so to become a beautiful mural-like masterpiece is much like the journey that we see with King George and the struggle of his speech and country. King George ends up defeating his speech impediment to give one of the most captivating and gripping speeches in his lifetime.
Sources: All photos from the Weinstein Company
Bedell, Geraldine, The Observer, “The King's Speech: How clever sets create a compelling picture of 1930s London” 2 January 2011