Movie Review – ‘Anna and the King’

Hello everyone! 🙂

Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!

Most of us know ‘The King and I’ story where Anna Leonowens, an English school teacher, went to Siam in the late 19th century to teach the many children and wives of King Mongkut. This has been portrayed in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on stage, in live-action film, and in cartoon film.

I’ve seen ‘The King and I’ 1956 musical film with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner to know what the story’s about. Recently, my parents and I saw another version of the ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ story on Disney+. This is, of course, the 1999 film ‘Anna and the King’ with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.

Like the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on stage and in films, ‘Anna and the King’ is based on the 1944 book ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ by Margaret Landon. It was interesting to see this version of the ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ story in the 1999 live-action film without musical numbers and such.

For one thing, the story is grittier and more serious compared to the sometimes light-hearted tone the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical had in say the 1956 film. It was also intriguing to see elements of the ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ story that I hadn’t seen before or yet discovered about.

There’s an internal conflict going on between King Mongkut and some of his family members who betray him and provoke a war with him. Anna is there to provide the King guidance as well as protect his children whilst also struggling to overcome the grief of her departed husband in the film.

I’m not sure how much of the film is historically accurate and again this is loosely based on a 1944 novel which gives a fictionalised account of the diaries of Anna Leonowens. However, this was a fascinating insight into the ‘Anna and the King’ story and one that was so invigorating to sit through.

One thing about this film that was off-putting was the fact there weren’t subtitles switched on for the scenes where the Siamese people were speaking in Siamese to each other. I don’t know if that’s the case for any DVD versions of the film, but it was the case when my parents and I saw this film on Disney+.

In the end, my parents and I had to switch on the English subtitles in order to hear what the Siamese people were saying to each other when not talking in English. I wish I’d known about this before we started the film, since we’ve missed what the conversations between certain characters were about.

Jodie Foster is very good playing Anna Leonowens in the film. Very often, I forgot she was an American actress playing an English woman in the film. 😀 She brings across the struggles Anna goes through with trying to win her points with the King as well as teaching his children and wives in Siam.

Chow Yun-Fat is also good as King Mongkut. It was interesting to see how he played the King compared to Yul Brunner in the 1956 film. Quite often, there are times when he can seem kind-hearted and reasonable. Other times, he allows Siamese tradition to come first before moral values.

Another interesting aspect about this film is that King Mongkut doesn’t die at the end. I know that was the case in the 1999 cartoon film, but I wonder why it was depicted in the 1956 film that the King died. Is that in the stage musical? Did King Mongkut die at all in the Margaret Landon’s book? 😐

The film also features Bai Ling as Tuptim, the King’s latest concubine, and Tom Felton as Louis, Anna’s son. It was nice to see Geoffrey Palmer as Lord John Bradley in the film. Most of the cast in the film, whether they be English or playing Siamese characters, deliver good performances in this. 🙂

‘Anna and the King’ has been an enjoyable film depiction of the ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ story. It’s a contrast to ‘The King and I’ story I know well for being in the 1956 film, but it was fascinating to discover and the performances of Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat hold the film well together for me.

Thanks for reading!

Bye for now!

Tim. 🙂

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