Netflix’s The King receives the royal treatment at a star-studded screening.
The highly-anticipated film by director David Michôd celebrated its New York City debut this week at the SVA Theater in Chelsea. Co-written by Michôd and star Joel Edgerton, The King captures the story of Hal (Timothée Chalamet), a reluctant heir to the English throne, as he comes to terms with being crowned King Henry V. With the help of his friend John Falstaff (Edgerton) and mentor William (Sean Harris), Hal navigates political encounters with the French monarchy, including royal siblings portrayed by Robert Pattinson and Lily-Rose Depp.
Hordes of fans arrived hours ahead of the premiere screen time in order to catch a glimpse of the magnetically talented lead actor, Timothée Chalamet, on the red carpet. Chalamet, donning a neon green turtleneck under a skinny black suit, stopped traffic to take photos with screaming admirers before passing out bagels– including Long Island staple bacon, egg, and cheese, his favorite. Stars Depp, Dean Thomas Chapman, and Edgerton also walked the carpet, with Edgerton and Michôd hugging to pose for pictures.
The film itself defies traditional genre norms, blending a refreshingly modern tale of corruption and moral uncertainty while still embracing the beauty and heart of the medieval era.
Writer-director Michôd sought to keep the “dirty and authenticity” of the story amongst the larger themes that easily resonate with today. “In a way, the movie is about how the mechanisms of power can suck a leader into their orbit and potentially crush them,” Michôd explained. “I think you can see it everywhere today– in America, in the U.K., in Australia– institutions kind of control their leaders, sometimes for the better because they can keep unstable people in check, but often it can work the other way, and genuinely well-intentioned people with grand ideals can be hamstrung.”
As with most period films, the music frames the story itself, the score setting the literal tone for the movie as a whole. Academy Award-winning composer Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk, Moonlight) worked closely with Michôd to craft an original score that transported the viewer into the scene.
Britell first viewed the film without music, and immediately then experimented with various directions for accompanying sound. “My first approach was to imagine what the movie would have sounded like if it was in the 25th century,” Britell said. “Then I did a lot of research on the music of the past, the late medieval, early Renaissance sound.”
Britell created full-bodied tones with bass clarinets and tape filters, bending metal, and rich low strings to add a resounding element to each scene– a deeper, fresh take on a traditional medieval film. “David [Michôd] actually felt very strongly as we experimented that he didn’t want the movie to be so ‘period,'” Britell continued. “The themes of intellectual dishonesty, to whom we entrust our power, and power over the state are timeless.”
Britell also recorded with a boys’ choir in London for portions of the score, citing its symbolic resonance with the film’s story of a young man becoming king.
The actual coronation scene in the film was one of the first sequences Britell composed; while viewing The King, the scaling rise of music adds a haunting nervousness to the scene, further conveying the pressing state of anxiety as an unwanted crown is bequeathed.
The onscreen emotion, only heightened by Britell’s score, parallels the composer’s personal passion.”Music is definitely an emotional experience for me. Writing music is about expressing your feelings in a way that is very abstract and sort of mysterious, but i think that’s what’s beautiful about it,” Britell said. “I think it’s really wonderful when you get to combine that with different art forms. There’s something about that incomprehensible mixture of media that feels very powerful, and I feel today actually more than ever that there’s this conjoining of art forms that is really beautiful.”
Star Chalamet echoed the sentiment of wholly embracing the story. “It was an exhilarating experience,” Chalamet said, albeit a “claustrophobic” role. Chalamet walked towards the theater, taking selfies and greeting more fans, a noble king himself amongst eager admirers.
The King is a classically sprawling epic told in an uniquely current way, each shot composed with such careful artistry that Chalamet’s performance–peppered with Edgerton’s tone-perfect charm, Pattinson’s manic prince, and Depp’s soulful strength– is one leader that we will surely follow forever. All hail Chalamet, all hail Michôd’s vision, all hail The King.
The King opens in select theaters October 11th, and is available for streaming on Netflix on November 1st.