REVIEW: A Royal Affair (M) (128 min)
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Mikkel Folsgaard
It's a true story, and possibly quite accurately told. There is still debate about whether the King of Denmark's personal physician did become the lover of Queen Caroline.
But it is not disputed that the doctor was hugely influential on Danish history, introducing a series of reforms, via King Christian VII, that would have Denmark hailed as "the light of the North" by Voltaire himself.
The tale is told mostly through the eyes and experience of young Caroline Mathilde.
We meet her as a beautiful, intelligent, and well-read woman, horrified to discover that her arranged marriage to the king has condemned her to life with a spindle-legged streak of inadequacies, concealing his own immaturity and arrested development behind a brittle mask of aloofness and childish jokes.
Into this unhappy mess walks Johann Struansee, the king's newly-appointed physician, only confidante, and a man much in thrall with the ideas of the Enlightenment already sweeping through England and France.
And so the three corners of the triangle are in place, and you can guess at how this is going play out.
A Royal Affair is costume drama done in fine style. Whether or not the history is entirely accurate, and no matter how many conveniences have been written into the script to keep the story moving across the screen, there is no denying that this is a sumptuous, engrossing, and very well-assembled film.
The three leads - especially Mikkel Folsgaard, managing to elicit a skerrick of sympathy in the difficult role of the king - are uniformly strong, while the staging of the film is rich and gorgeous to look at.
If you like your dramas historical, handsome, and with a few ideas in their heads, you will enjoy this one a great deal.
The New Zealand International Film Festival programme is out this week. It's looking like a grand year. Pick up a copy and have a look. There really is something there for everyone.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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