Indeed, the film can be read as a study of our relationships with symbols. We are what Terrence Deacon called the symbolic species, and our symbols can inspire fear as naturally as confidence. The film’s newsreel footage of Hitler and his followers prods our deep anxiety over the implications of fascism. We see a salute – a mere gesture, multiplied many thousandfold – and we cringe at the fragility and dark potential of our kind. Speech – and radio – brings people together; towards what end is up to us. It can help unite a nation, or, as Orson Welles learned in 1938, it can amplify paranoia. “Is the nation ready,” Albert asked, “for two minutes of radio silence?” Before the prince’s first speech in the film, his painful pause is punctuated by the whinny of a horse. It doesn’t break the ice. Years later the prince has become a king, on paper and in his heart; and as he goes to deliver his country’s declaration of war, a dog barks, and the sound prompts a small joke. The world is made of moments of sound. Six transcendent minutes await, and he will be ready.
A Very Successful Cover-Up
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