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Friday, 18 January 2013 01:00

Political intrigue rules 'A Royal Affair'
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Nikolaj Arcel
  • Dates: Opens November 21, 2012

A famous chapter in late 18th century Danish history drives writer/director Nikolaj Arcel’s "A Royal Affair." Taking the throne in 1766 at 17, King Christian VII’s reign involved the usual power struggles and betrayals, but Christian’s mental instability made his court particularly volatile, permitting his physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee to gain ascendant influence.

King Christian VII and soon his wife, Caroline Mathilde, sister of Great Britain’s King George III, both succumbed to Struensee’s considerable charm and progressive ideas. Inspired by the Enlightenment, he advocated freedom of the press and opposed torture. Once Minister of the Privy Council, he enacted dramatic changes. Increasing the intrigue, he carried on a love affair with neglected queen Caroline. All won’t end well.

An amazing story as well known in Denmark as Henry VIII’s story in England, at two and a quarter hours, the cinematic version feels a bit long, but there is a lot to tell and the changes in the characters can’t be rushed in conveying the complex developments.

At this year’s Telluride Film Festival, Mads Mikkelsen, who plays German Dr. Struensee, said he saw the story about power corrupting a well-meaning individual. He captures the clever and cautious Struensee who yields to ego and arrogance. For his astonishing performance as King Christian in his first film role, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard won the best actor award at the Berlin Film Festival. Alicia Vikander as Caroline is equally skillful in portraying the young, trapped and desperate queen.

Made for an astonishingly miniscule $6 million, “A Royal Affair” boasts gorgeous cinematography and superb art direction, especially the costumes and locations. Gabriel Yared’s musical score effectively interprets the emotional fluctuations without annoying intrusion. “A Royal Affair” is already among the three considered for Oscar submission by Denmark and will delight those who embrace period pieces with strong historical grounding.

Primarily in Danish with a smattering of French and German, all with English subtitles, and with a bit of English. At a Landmark Theater.

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