ALICIA VIKANDER MADS MIKKELSEN MIKKEL BOE FOLSGAARD
A ROYAL AFFAIR
I get so busy and caught up with reviewing films I do enjoy this time of year that I am forced to review screeners for foreign films vying for awards attention. A Royal Affair is the official Danish entry for the Academy Awards. It’s a lavish costume period piece with excellent pacing and very strong acting. Mixed with some English dialogue, A Royal Affair could have easily been one of those films you have to suffer through just to say you have seen it, but very early on it establishes itself in the Elizabeth quality.
Based on the very dark and tragic story of young King Christian VII (Foldgaard), who according to doctors suffered erratic, childlike behavior which they believed was made worse by his obsession with masturbation. The King had an arranged marriage with one of his cousin’s from England, Caroline Mathilde (Vikander), who discovered very quickly that this king of art, acting and fun was not the man of her dreams. Forced to deal with his absurd behavior and bare his children, Caroline falls in love with the king’s best friend, who is a German doctor, and through kind manipulation set the king in the direction of the age of enlightenment and gave the people of Denmark unknown freedoms.
As I watched the film I became so interested in the backstory that I actually paused it to read up on the history to see what they left out and what they altered for film. In reality, the ending is much more gruesome from history than on screen. A Royal Affair, unlike many of this years costume drama’s, is old fashion in the telling but has such an exuberant story that it’s extremely compelling, especially when you don’t know much about that country's history.
The brash nature of the screenplay really surprised me and kept my attention. There are themes and subjects being discussed here in 1766 Denmark that certainly surprised me, and I think works to put a modern spin to the story. The performances, especially from Folsgaard with his very strange behavior, really stand out. Vikander is as beautiful as she is talented and is allowed to convey a variety of emotions in this role.
Final Thought – On the short list of great foreign films this year.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Talk about intrigue! A Royal Affair dramatizes the real life goings-on in the Danish palace during the reign of Christian VII toward the end of the 18th Century. It is said to be a fairly accurate of the events described. King Christian (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) has just married an English princess, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), but is less than enchanted with her. Not only that, he is moody and rude, and is considered to be mentally ill. After their child is born, he goes on a year’s journey to Europe, where he comes into contact with a physician, Dr. Struensee (Mads Mikkelson) whom his aides want to send with the king to attend personally to his care. With his liberal political leanings, Struensee seems ill-suited to be working at court, but for some reason he is intrigued and accepts the offer, and he and the king subsequently become bosom buddies.
At first, the doctor and the queen are put off by one another, but the king urges the physician to “treat” his wife’s grumpy mood. Eventually, the two begin to realize that their political views are synchronous, and they enjoy long philosophical discussions as they spend time together. The queen is a smart, educated woman, and encourages Struensee to influence her husband toward more humanitarian public policies. By appealing to the king’s penchant for role-playing and shocking others, the doctor suggests he role-play a strong leader. This is actually successful, and the king begins to look less “crazy” and behave more assertively with the council, which has been under the control of the dowager queen, Christian’s mother. Good public works are begun; however, two factors undermine the effort: money and sex.
Public projects are expensive, which necessitates withdrawing some of the excessive benefits the noblemen are enjoying. The other situation gives the opposing faction the opportunity to undermine the public works projects and regain control, and that is the attraction that has developed between the queen and Struensee. In the subsequent aftermath, the queen is deported to Germany without her children and Struensee is beheaded. The story of the film is based on a letter the queen wrote to her two children as she was dying, explaining to them what had happened to her. By that time, the son Frederic had essentially replaced his father in the king’s duties, and he and his sister were able to implement many of the projects planned under Struensee’s and the queen’s influence.
This is an engaging film with beautiful costumes, fine direction by Nikolaj Arcel and fine acting by the cast. Grade: A