I loved “The King’s Speech.” It’s the best film I’ve seen this year, or for the last 10 years for that matter. I hope it wins everything, but I particularly hope Colin Firth wins the Oscar for best actor.
The movie’s portrayal of genuine friendship between two adult men (however embellished or apocryphal it may be) had a profound effect on me that I still am hard-pressed to fully articulate.
Which brings me to “The Social Network.”
“The Social Network” is loosely about Facebook – but by the end of the film you rather forget that. Really, it’s about two friends – or at least two people who were friends – and how envy grows like leaven, eventually poisoning what once was something of great value.
By contrast, “The King’s Speech” is very nearly the opposite. Two men, also at opposite ends of the social spectrum, with every reason to maintain class and distinction and not cross the lines of British society, are drawn together by necessity.
The friendship that grows out of it is appropriate – not overly sentimental but, at least in my opinion, entirely believable. Simply put, I left that movie wanting to be a better friend, and entirely grateful for the friendships I had (and in some form of grief for others I’d mistreated). The parable found its mark with me, and the message was clear.
“The Social Network” ends with a main character still trying to make meaningful connections and relationships. Where “The King’s Speech” is comedy – “Twelfth Night” or “Much Ado About Nothing” – “The Social Network” is simultaneously “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” – a tragedy of the worst kind that illustrates how the desire to connect millions of people was born out of one’s own inability to do so.
By the end, I felt like I had seen another parable, but from the shadow side. I felt about “The Social Network” as I can only imagine Baby Boomers felt the first time they saw “Wall Street.”
It points out a shallowness in our culture – a dark place that seems to reward avarice and one’s ability to rid one’s self of any kind of conscience or moral ethic. The weathered optimism of “The King’s Speech” is nowhere to be found here. The picture is bleak, and the film leaves off with only the hope of a meaningful connection for the profoundly disconnected.
After both films, I couldn’t help but feel as though each spoke to an oft-neglected aspect of our shared human experience. The friendships we share are often so visceral that we struggle to articulate them intelligibly. There is a tendency in the day-to-day madness of life to see connections and relationships as part of the infrastructure of our existence – as sure and steady as the ground we trod.
This is almost always the case until we meet conflict or brokenness – until we encounter something that threatens that mystical, intangible bond of friendship. At that point, we run headlong into our own pride and ambition, failings and triumphs, trying desperately to restore something we had for so long considered sure.
The lesson I’ve learned from these two mirror-themed films is that it is in the birth of new friendship and in the potential death of one that we are forced to consider the profound gift of knowing that we are not alone – that we may be both loved and loving. In the “in-between times,” I’m far more likely to take these relationships for granted – to see them as something less than the divine gift of presence that they are.
So I’m thankful for parables great and small that remind me of the goodness of God that has been so often mediated to me through a friend.