Friday, June 28, 2013

A Royal Affair

(En Kongelig Affaere)
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

In this sumptuous historical period piece, director Nikolaj Arcel focuses on the relationships between King Christian VII of Denmark, his wife, Queen Caroline Mathilda of Great Britain and the royal physician Johann Friedrich Struensee.  A contender for Best Foreign Film at last year’s Academy Awards, it didn’t take home the Oscar, but at 137 minutes with Danish subtitles(rated R-naughty royals), it is filled with historical accuracy. Largely taken from the 1999 novel, The Visit from the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist, our director comes highly acclaimed having previously written the screenplay for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The year is 1766, and at the tender age of 15, Caroline travels to Denmark to marry her cousin. “I’ve always wanted to be Queen of an exotic country,” she says as we next see images of a filthy, poor Denmark city, rats running over bare feet, and people in tattered rags.  She also encounters her soon-to-be-husband, the infantile, unbalanced and easily duped King Christian VII.  As a royal, she handles these disappointments with aplomb. Caroline, played by Alicia Vikander, plays a very composed  young Queen. King Christian, played by actor Mikkel Folsgaard, does silly and infantile exceedingly well. One memorable line, “I want a fun Queen!”  stands out. Throw in Mads Mikklesen as Johann Struensee with his granite face and his affinity for the common man, and foreign film aficionados will be pleased at the quality performances. Many great scenes are conveyed without much dialogue at all, particularly the carriage scene towards the end.

History buffs will already know the story and outcome, but I wasn’t as familiar. On one level, it’s a retelling of these royals in history, and on another level it is the love story of Caroline and Struensee.  They not only fall in love, but they fall in love with the ideals of changing a nation. And throughout, is the political reform sweeping in in the age of enlightenment. All this with satin brocades, upswept hair and wigs amidst the stepmother hungry for power and a council with its own agenda.

Scandal, love, royals, history, madness, intrigue…all the elements needed for a worthy film. So worth a watch.

Other royal contenders in film to watch are, The Duchess, The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth and Young Victoria.

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