A Royal Affair
Based on one of the most dramatic events in European history according to Writer and Director Nikolaj Arcel, A Royal Affair has been on the drawing board for the best part of forty years, being passed round various production companies until finally falling in the lap of Lars Von Trier’s production house Zentropa.
It carries all the traits of a traditional love story but widely differs, in the sense of consequence for our royal protagonists and the impending fate of the Danish colonial Empire.
The year is 1762 and Denmark lies under the rule of King Christian VII, who is battling a lifelong illness of schizophrenia. His Queen and cousin, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), has been forced into a loveless marriage and so begins an affair with the royal physician Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelson), leading to devastating consequences for both them and the “royal elite”.
As the film decides to mainly focus its attention on the secret relationship between Queen and physician, the politics and state of the royal family sidelined. It is a shame, as this is what makes the affair such a poignant and important part of modern history. Nods are given to Voltaire and the “Enlightenment Era”, but for a film which runs just shy of 140 minutes these references are far too seldom for my liking.
A credible note which sets this film apart from other royal biopics (Ahem… The Young Victoria) is the sheer class of acting talent. Mikkelson delivers a flawless performance as the troubled doctor who is being punished for falling in love with the wrong girl and Vikander, who we will see later in the year alongside Kiera Knightley and Jude Law in a new adaptation of Anna Karenina (due for September release) exudes enormous passion coupled with a looming vulnerability to her character.
A Royal Affair is a strong piece of filmmaking and it really has to be to tackle such an important phase of royal history. One can understand why the road between production and release was constantly being lengthened in order to release the right type of film. Don’t let the Danish language put you off as this formidable film is the perfect vehicle to drive Vikander to new heights in her career.
Watch the trailer for A Royal Affair here: