The story is a simple
one, except that it is based on true life diaries. A British
schoolteacher travels to Siam to teach the son of the king in the ways
of the Western world. She is quickly over-run by their customs and
traditions, and the way they treat outsiders.
But she refuses to yield. She is very strong-willed, and
stands up for her rights no matter that the man she is trying to speak
with is the king. That she wouldn't treat the King of Britain this
way doesn't even cross her mind. She is a British citizen, and is
thus not under the influence of any other sovereign.
Her first class is, of course, made of great difficulty.
The king's son doesn't want to be taught by a woman, much less a foreign
one. He refuses to write his "lines" on the board for fighting in
class, and so spends almost the whole night in the classroom.
The subplot is a possible invasion of the Burmese, which is suspected
to be backed by the British. But it is not, and there is a great
scene where we discover who is behind it all.
This leads to a confrontation between the King and the Burmese
army, which takes place over a bridge crossing a wondrous river.
The scene works really well, and its resolution, with his son taking the
blame, also shows how far the characters have come.
The scenery was magnificent. The lush jungles, the rivers
and the palace, were just breathtaking. The schoolroom was on the
river, which made it the place of some great scenery.
The characters were also beautiful. They interacted with
each other perfectly, and we could see how amused the King was with Anna's
attitude, but also how it frustrated him.
The movie balanced the attitudes perfectly, I think. When
Anna talks about the British way being the way of the world, her two "servants"
look at each other knowingly. She talks to the King's son about slavery,
but does not recognize her servants as being slaves, because they are "only"
And it is her meddling that gets her into trouble. As one
British lord says to her, she should stay away from politics. She
barges in and demands that things be changed, without realizing that if
the King did that, he would probably not wake up again some morning soon,
for someone would have taken his head and put another on the throne.
Someone who is not as wise as the current king. This is demonstrated
perfectly in the situation of the slave, and even better with the trial
Finally, the banquet was wonderfully done. From the servants
smashing all the wine glasses by bowing to the King, to the insults at
the dinner table (at which Anna further demonstrates how far out of her
league she is), to finally, the waltz, it felt like beauty come alive.
Of course, I can't forget the King's little girl. She was
precious, and we could feel the way she radiated emotion, from playing
monkey, to kissing her father goodnight, to all of her drawings, to when
her face lit up when Anna was called to her bed.
All in all, the movie was beautiful. I didn't think it
was too long, as some have said, and although I don't like the British
snobbery, I didn't think it overshadowed too much of the movie, as it was
offset by other moments that were more truthfully conveyed through the
eyes of the side characters.