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A Royal Affair (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 138 minutes.

OK for children.

This is an historical movie that lasts well over two hours but doesn't have one slow moment in it. Denmark's official Oscar® entry as Best Foreign Language Film, it gives an obviously biased view of a controversial time in Denmark's history, but it does shine the light on something that happened of which most Americans are totally ignorant. In Denmark, however, these events are taught in school, and have been the subject of 15 books, an opera, and a ballet.

Alicia Vikander gives an hypnotic performance as Denmark Queen Caroline Mathilda, and Mads Mikkelsen sparkles as her lover/physician, the revolutionary Johann Friedrich Streunsee. As a 15-year-old English girl, Caroline becomes betrothed to her cousin, Denmark's King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Felsgaard), in 1766, sight unseen. When she meets him, however, she discovers that he is mentally unbalanced. Although not explained in the movie, her eldest brother was King George III of American Revolutionary War fame, and he was leery of the marriage, although he was not aware of Christian's mental condition. After she bears Christian a son, their conjugal visits cease.

Enter Dr. Streunsee, who is a doctor to the poor with revolutionary tendencies. He is maneuvered to care for the King as his travelling physician by a couple of neo-revolutionaries, Enevold Brandt (Cyron Melville) and Count Schack Carl Rantzau (Thomas W. Gabrielsson), a leader of a circle of followers of The Enlightenment (led by Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu), who treats Streunsee as his protégé. When Streunsee joins the King's court, he eventually meets the lonely, neglected Queen and sparks fly.

Streunsee's power and influence quickly become enormous and he is responsible for over 1,000 new laws liberating the people of Denmark. Alas, he makes big enemies. What is shown in this film is historically accurate, but the shading of the characters might be debatable, especially the "affair."

Even so, this is a wonderfully entertaining film. I have a woman friend who fell in love with Mikkelsson, and I had the same feeling about Vikander, so this should appeal to both sexes. They both give award-quality performances.

Written (with Rasmus Heisterberg) and directed by Nikolaj Arcel the film is highlighted by captivating cinematography (Rasmus Videbćk). Some of the scenes look like brilliant oil paintings and the royal settings and clothes are plush.

Despite its length, this is a rewarding, entertaining, educational, romantic movie.

In Danish.