November 8, 2012 (United States)
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg
Character-driven as costume dramas come with its striding lead performances, "A Royal Affair" is a refined film and far more engaging than its counterparts.
"A Royal Affair" is not just a lavish depiction of 18th Century Denmark during the reign of the mad King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard), it's an important lesson about one country's repression and how the influence of one outsider brought about enlightenment, though through scandalous means. Madds Mikkelson plays the German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee who became King Christian's personal physician. The King's wife, Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (Alicia Vikander), is estranged from her unfortunate and political spousal match and slowly becomes infatuated with Struensee. Caroline is a free-thinker herself and often doesn't fit the mold she's been assigned. When giving birth to her and Christian's first child she is told by her mother-in-law, "A true queen delivers in silence and dignity." Caroline glares at the noblewoman and screams louder.
The three performances of this controversial love triangle are strong hooks on the wall on which the years-worth of events hang. (These events are all told through the device of a letter that Caroline is writing to her children.) It helps that they are surrounded by a talented cast of supporting performances, but it's the critical stakes of the relationships and how they adversely affect an entire people that makes "A Royal Affair" so important and, yes, at times forbiddingly intoxicating. The civillian rights on display are relevant to our or any day, making this film worthy of many libraries. I came home from the theater to do research on the period, people and proceedings depicted. I was surprised how accurate the film is. You can rest assured you'll be learning about an important time while also escaping to something more involving than you'd think a beautiful royalty costume drama could be.
"They all think I'm crazy."
- Christian VII
CONTENT: brief violence, brief strong language, some sexuality and brief female nudity, some explicit sexual dialogue