A Royal Affair

29 Dec

a royal affair



Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Writers: Bodil Steensen-Leth (novel), Rasmus Heisterberg (screenplay)

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 137 minutes


This subtitled Danish film is the true story of Princess Caroline Matilda of Wales who married into the Danish royal family in the early 1770’s. She was a young British princess and entered an arranged marriage with the Danish King, Christian VII. He was also young, just 17 went he took the Danish thrown in 1766, and his reign was tempestuous due to the scheming of his advisors, but also due to mental illness from which he suffered.

The story of A Royal Affair is both true and fascinating. King Christian recruits a German physician called Johann Friedrich Struensee and then appoints him a minister to his government. Struensee has radical thoughts on government, the distribution of land and wealth and he slowly begins to influence the king and to take a hold of government policy. In attending to the mentally ill king he becomes his key confidante. At the same time the doctor starts an affair with Queen Caroline, a lonely and frustrated figure rarely courted by her eccentric husband. During the course of the film we see both the king and the queen fall under the spell of Struensee.

This is a very well made and interesting film. The acting is strong, the costumes and set design are excellent and the direction is a nice mix of traditional and modern techniques. The story of an illicit affair, a faltering king and political intrigue is gripping, but it is also timeless. The 1770’s was the beginning of the age of enlightenment and the central theme here is of new thinkers clashing with an incumbent and privileged class. It is the poor against the rich. It is the farm workers versus the aristocracy and the church – an early Arab Spring of sorts. Struensee is considered to be a dangerous radical and as such attracts enormous hostility.

I enjoyed this film and it moved along nicely considering that it is over 2 hours, it is subtitled, and it retells eighteenth century Danish history. The script and direction keep it fresh and maximize what I assume was a small budget (lots of interior shots). The acting is high quality with Mads Mikkelsen typically strong as Struensee and with Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (Christian) and Alicia Vikander (Caroline) holding their own. The Swedish actress Vikander is certainly one to watch out for.

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