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The King

The devil made me do it.  

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The King

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Laura Harring, William Hurt

Tipped as Mexico's hottest actor of his generation, Gael Garcia Bernal is known for delivering sizzling performances in all his films. Trilingual, smouldering and possessing unbridled talent, his portrayal of a devil in disguise in The King is brilliant. This is Bernal's first film where he speaks English the whole way through and he carries the film in a very natural way.

Recently discharged from the navy the young Elvis (Bernal) travels back to Texas to try and find the man who knew his mother a long time ago and could be his father. He finds the reluctant David Sandow (Hurt) who is now a preacher with a wife, son named Paul and a daughter called Malerie. David is reluctant to let Elvis into his life, reminded of his past indiscretions by his son. The stubborn Elvis realises that if one approach to be a part of his father's life fails another must be undertaken and this is when he starts seducing Malerie, who has been told by her father to have nothing to do with this young man. However, that makes him more attractive and soon they find themselves in Elvis' dingy motel room. Paul, unsuccessful in his chosen career and jealous of Elvis as the returned son, realises there is something strange going on with Malerie and makes the mistake of threatening Elvis. Elvis will let nothing and no one stand in his way of claiming his rightful place in the world and the consequences of David letting Elvis into his family life are surprising but tragic.

The film is littered with very Greek undertones. Elvis is the prodigal son come to reclaim his position in the world and to somehow take revenge on his father. David, seeing Elvis as a way to boost his own patriarchal standing over his family and the community at large, lets him into his life. His smugness and self-portrayal as a liberator is his downfall as is false charitable spirit. The film does not judge Elvis but lets the audience judge him for themselves. At the same time it questions the difference between the good and the bad and the effects of fundamentalist Christianity on daily life in the USA. This is a film not to be missed.

Victoria Galloway

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)
2019/2020 Spring Term (digital)