Freeview film of the day: Tuesday 5 September – The Madness of King George

Smart, witty and humane, Alan Bennett's adaptation of his own play also sees Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm and Rupert Everett on scintillating form

Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren

The Madness of King George ★★★★★
6.50-9.00pm Film Four

Advertisement

Nigel Hawthorne gives an inspired, funny and deeply moving performance in the title role of this celebrated, Oscar-winning film of Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III. The king is married to Charlotte (Helen Mirren), dallying with Lady Pembroke (Amanda Donohoe), and is not only father of 15 children (Rupert Everett plays the foppish Prince of Wales) but also of a nation and an empire. Problem is, Farmer George – a nickname the king delights in – is showing signs of madness, or at least that’s the official diagnosis. Surgeon Ian Holm is brought in to put the king into a straitjacket (providing some of the film’s most disturbing scenes), while the royal quacks examine the royal stool for traces of insanity. Behind the sardonic jokes and colloquialisms that are Bennett’s trademark is a serious study of 18th-century politics and the monarchy, with a final scene that hints at the House of Windsor as much as that of Hanover. Immaculately directed by Nicholas Hytner, this is an unmissable treat and the finest vision of a bygone age since Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. It won the Oscar for best art direction and Bennett’s screenplay was one of three other nominations. Adrian Turner


Advertisement

 For more of today’s free-to-air films, see our TV listings