What It's About
A beautifully crafted film about a revolutionary period in Danish history, "A Royal Affair" blends strong acting and good writing with lavish production elements.
In 18th century Denmark, the insane King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaar) takes Caroline Mathilde of Great Britain (Alicia Vikander) as his wife. A naive young woman, she soon realizes she's a royal prisoner in this marriage of convenience. However, her intellect and passion are aroused by the arrival of the king's German doctor, Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). A charismatic leader, Struensee will convince the king to make reforms and in secret, teams with the queen to further the causes of the Enlightenment period.
Sparks fly, scandals break, heads roll, and a nation is forever changed.
With this film and "Anna Karenina," Alicia Vikander establishes herself as one to watch. Her vulnerability and strength come through as an intelligent woman of her time, trapped by convention, but then unleashed by her heart. Her relationship with Struensee, a man clearly ahead of his time, is dynamic.
The matinee-idol handsome Mikkelsen is a rising star in Europe, and he commands the screen as the wise reformer. Although the king character is reprehensible on screen, Folsgaar excels as the immature ruler who is being played on all sides.
An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, "A Royal Affair" electrifies an engaging yet little-known period in Scandanavian history. Director Nicolaj Areel co-wrote the screenplay with Rasmus Heisterberg, and they are natural storytellers. The pair are responsible for the original film adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and they know how to develop intrigue into a plot, no matter what century.
The cinematography, art direction and costume design all contribute to making this film a first-rate period piece.
What Doesn't Work
The story must have its historical romance novel aspect -- there is no denying that. If you don't like that traditional type of arc, you are not going to find this story appealing.
3 1/2 stars
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Folsgaar
Rated: R for sexual content and some violent images.
In Danish, English, German and French, with English subtitles