views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

A Royal Affair (15)
The Covent Garden Hotel
29th May 2012


Danish historical drama A Royal Affair is the lavish and accomplished telling of the romance between Queen Caroline Mathilde and King Christian VII of Denmark's royal physician Struensee, and how this caused a revolution.

What could have been an incredibly dry sequence of events is lifted by the exquisite direction of Nikolaj Arcel and top-notch performances by the three main leads. Arcel gets the most from his sumptuous surroundings and talented cast and crew, not least Rasmus Videbaek's breathtaking cinematography.

Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg's screenplay carries the weight and grandeur befitting of the royalty, but takes care not to overlook the smaller, romantic and character-driven scenes in favour of lecturing. In fact, the script juggles all of the elements extremely well, with a healthy dose of black humour undercutting the more po-faced moments.

This is in no small part thanks to Mikkel Folsgaard as the gleefully crazy King. Spinning from menacing to childish on a dime, by way of frustrating, idiotic, petulant and whimsical, he put me in mind of Batman's Joker in royal garb - albeit with sympathy the overriding feeling towards his character. He deserved every inch of his Best Actor Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

The shades of grey at every level of the affair was what the film did best. Alicia Vikander as the Queen and Mads Mikkelsen as Struensee carried off their parts with aplomb, the divided loyalty between the King and their love played realistically. The latter, especially, was capable of showing great tenderness to his bonkers boss while making his adoration of Caroline totally believable before the tragic ending.

Given we're in a Jubilee year and monarchy-fever is at an all time high, British filmmakers could do a lot worse than look at this effort as inspiration for their next wave of cash-in royal movies.

A Royal Affair was released in the UK on 15th June 2012.

Nearest tube station: Covent Garden (Piccadilly)

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