Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Royal Affair (Nicolaj Arcel, 2012)

Lastly, we have A Royal Affair,a period piece about the court of Christian VII, King of Denmark, his British Queen, and his personal physician.

This is the story of Caroline Mathilde (the beautiful Alicia Vikander), a british noble married off to the King of Denmark, Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). Christian is a man-child, unsuited to be king. He allows his council to control the country, and despises Caroline for her charisma, and the limits marriage has placed on his carousing. Once Caroline gives birth to a son, she decides her duty as queen is done, and she chooses to limit contact with Christian as much as possible. He is more than happy to stay away. The council decides that the king needs a personal physician to deal with the king's supposed mental problems. Two courtiers who have fallen out of favor push a German town doctor for the position, Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). He ingratiates himself to the king and gains the position, despite his lack of court clout and a history of political heresy as a free-thinker.

I think we all know where this is headed. Struensee and Caroline fall in love. What we don't expect is that they both push the king to enact reforms, which irritate the the council, but draws attention from such notables as Voltaire, who praises Christian as "the light of the north". In the end, everything falls apart, of course.

I am not a huge fan of period dramas, but do enjoy a historical dramatization at times. This one kept me watching, despite its rather hefty 137 minute run time. It is very compelling and beautiful to watch. Despite a lot of political wrangling, the story is solid, and does not drift too much toward the love triangle or political power plots. It is in Danish, and subtitled, but worth the effort if you enjoy this sort of thing.

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