Runing Time: 137 mins
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Set in Denmark 1770, A Royal Affair follows the events surrounding a love triangle between the unhinged King Christian VII (an Oscar deserved performance from Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), his 15 year old queen, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) and the royal doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen).
The story begins with Caroline travelling from England to Copenhagen to meet with her new husband. It soon becomes clear that her role is no more than a mother and babysitter for the king’s offspring with his affections directed towards his dogs and village prostitutes. After a series of awkward fumblings the king and queen do produce a son and the kingdom rejoice.
When the king’s erratic behaviour and fornication begin to get out of hand, his mother (Trine Dyrholm) calls for a doctor, or companion, for her son. A local German physician called Struensee is brought to Christian’s side and they soon become close friends with the doctor taking advantage of his influence over Christian to improve the Danish people’s living conditions and rights within the courts.
Caroline is initially skeptical as to Johann’s intentions but soon begins to find common interests with the nobleman and is eager to share in his growing influence within the courts. The couple spend more time together, culminating in a passionate affair that will inevitably end in tragedy.
A Royal Affair looks and sounds stunning. Some of the shots of Caroline and Johann against the backdrop of historic Copenhagen are nothing short of breathtaking. Arcel has not only a great eye for detail and setting but pulls a rabbit out of the hat with the casting of newcomer, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard. Foldgaard’s sniffing and giggling portrayal of Christian is terrific as he creates amusement, resentment and sympathy towards the troubled character. Mads Mikkelsen offers admirable support as the cunning and ambitious doctor that has ideas above his station. Finally the beautiful Alicia Vikander is equally restrained and passionate in her performance of a woman forced into a loveless and unhappy existence.
Some of the scenes are priceless, especially a sequence in the Danish court where ‘the worm finally turns’ and Christian defends his closest friend and takes a stand against the beaurocrats that are ruining his country. A moment that is worth the admission price alone.
Although the story is very loosely based on historical fact, you know that at some point in the affair that things are going to turn ugly and the result is heartbreaking. Do yourself a favour and catch A Royal Affair before it’s reign on the big screen is cut short.