A Royal Affair (2012)
Cast includes: Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), Mikkel Boe Folsgaard (Those Who Kill)
Director: Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (writing), Truth About Men (directing))
Genre: Period Drama | Romance (137 minutes), Danish with subtitles
“I was an innocent… married simply for political union.” In 1766, the 15-year-old Princess of Wales was anxious about her upcoming marriage to Denmark’s King Christian VII. Will he like her? Will the people like her? “If you can get the King to visit your bedchamber on the first evening, you’ll be perceived as a success,” her mother tells her. Caroline has been told he’ll be a kind husband, but on first meeting him, she finds a childish and bizarre King. In fact, everything about Denmark seems unappealing… from the squalor in the streets of Copenhagen to the prohibition of her English books. She’s successful in getting Christian to visit her bedchamber, but the sex act is clumsy and does nothing to improve their relationship. Caroline soon realizes he’s “insane”… “I wish I had the strength to forgive him.” But she doesn’t. And after becoming “blessed” with child, “there was no reason to maintain a façade.” After the birth, Christian announces he is leaving on a Grand Tour of Europe. What a relief!
We meet the German physician Johann Struensee while he’s attending the poor. Although he’s a “man of the enlightenment,” he agrees to a meet the King. Christian is suspicious of physicians, but Dr. Struensee amuses him with some refreshing literary banter. Apparently, Christian’s insanity doesn’t prevent him from memorizing famous quotes. Dr. Struensee often plays the role of playmate to the unpredictable king… and that’s the impression Caroline has of him when her husband returns with the physician. Many blame his “certain moods” on his “excessive masturbation.” Christian wishes his wife weren’t such a “boring cow,” but Dr. Struensee feels she may be ill. Christian insists that Dr. Struensee treat her for her moodiness. Although Caroline doesn’t trust the doctor, she eventually discovers his secret library of books about the Enlightenment, and a bond is formed… eventually leading to an affair.
Like most royal courts, there are multiple factions. As long as those in the inner circle can use Christian to their ends, they’re willing to put up with him. But the Enlightenment is changing things all over Europe, and both Caroline and Dr. Struensee would like to see some changes come to Denmark. While Caroline has no influence over her husband, the doctor does. The change in King Christian VII’s attitude leads to suspicions about the physician, and the plot thickens when Caroline becomes pregnant again.
Those who love period dramas about royal intrigue will definitely enjoy this one. Even if you don’t see a lot of Danish films, you may recognize some of the excellent actors. While Danish history may not be well known in America, most of us will easily see how it fits within the larger history of Europe. One of Christian’s early decrees is a “war on crap.” In the 1700s fecal matter in the street was a common cause of epidemics, but cleaning it up was considered a waste of government money.
3 popped kernels
A young princess marries the King of Denmark and discovers he’s insane… the king’s physician becomes her lover and together they hope to bring reform to Denmark
Rated: R (Sexual content)
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: High-end production
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative