Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Royal Affair: Movie Review


Love, power and enlightenment in the Royal Court of Denmark.
A young princess, Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander), lived an affluent lifestyle in 1760s England and at age 15 she was shipped off to Denmark to marry King Christian VII (Mikkel Folsgaard). Christian was mentally ill and Caroline did not know. Upon arrival at the castle in Copenhagen, it wasn’t long before she understood his mental state. He took to her with force, spoke bluntly and rudely and acted like a child. As soon as Caroline conceived a son, she retreated internally. 2012

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel

Screenplay by: Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Folsgaard

Left to Right: Johann (Mads Mikkelsen) and Caroline (Alicia Vikander).
Courtesy of Jiri Hanzl.
But A Royal Affair isn’t just about the King and Queen. It’s also about the struggle for political and societal advancement, counteracted with the evils of power, also counteracted with the freedom of love. Back in England, Caroline had access to knowledge. She learned Italian, French and German and read and appreciated accomplished works. When she arrived in Denmark, her books were shipped back to England. They were under Danish censorship. Caroline wanted those books, and her old life, back; she just didn’t know how to get it.

A handful of forward-thinking individuals in the King’s Court could see how easily influenced the King could be. He was like a child – he just needed to be convinced that he wanted it. With the King’s inappropriate behaviour, it was rather easy to hire a personal doctor for him. Enter Dr. Johann Freidrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). Born to a Lutheran Pastor, trained as a medical doctor, but educated in the Age of Enlightenment, Struensee anonymously wrote books on atheism and social reform. He happily accepted the position as the Royal Doctor; he could already see how to put his radical ideas in motion.

Courtesy of Jiri Hanzl.
Caroline didn’t like anybody in the Royal Court until she spied an “illegal” book in Struensee’s possession. He was her ticket back to intellectual freedom. Through their affair, shared ideals on how to improve society were born. They both believed in scientific advancement, social equality and medical care for everyone. The King was a good man too, he was just unstable.

Caroline (Alicia Vikander). Courtesy of Jiri Hanzl.
A Royal Affair is the story of how Denmark became the most advanced country in the world, if only for a few days. With enlightenment comes reform, with reform comes progress, with progress comes power, with power comes evil, and evil versus enlightenment is a tough battle that can’t always be won. It’s a brilliant film with powerful performances, beautiful photography, and serves Denmark well as its entry into the Oscar race.