Next week the Queen will become our longest serving monarch, clocking up 63-years and 184 days, surpassing Queen Victoria. If you are interested the longest serving monarch of all on the planet was King Sobhuza 11 of Swaziland, clocking up an impressive 89 years and 219 days. His dad – and the previous king – died suddenly dancing on ‘hot stones’ and so four-month-old Sobhuza got the gig. The oldest ruling monarch still alive is King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, ticking up his seventieth year on the throne. But this film is about Christian VII of Denmark, who served a decent 55 years at the top, a then record, this being 18th century Europe, a few heads chopped off during his reign. The Danish Throne was gripped by scandal during the decade of the 1760s, the subject of this entertaining costume drama.
• Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee
• Alicia Vikander as Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
• Mikkel Følsgaard as Christian VII of Denmark
• David Dencik as Ove Høegh-Guldberg
• Søren Malling as Hartmann
• Trine Dyrholm as Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
• William Jøhnk Nielsen as Frederick VI of Denmark
• Cyron Bjørn Melville as Enevold Brandt
• Rosalinde Mynster as Natasha
• Laura Bro as Louise von Plessen
• Bent Mejding as J.H.E. Bernstorff
• Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Schack Carl Rantzau
• Søren Spanning as Münster
• John Martinus as Ditlev Reventlow
• Erika Guntherová as Hofdame
• Harriet Walter as Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
• Klaus Tange as Minister
Young King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard) of Denmark is a bit of an idiot with a child like madness, destined to wed the young and beautiful Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (Alicia Vikander) to strengthen both royal families. It’s an arranged marriage and little chemistry, Christian preferring hoars and booze to marriage and kids.
As smallpox spreads across the kingdom some recently Squeezed out lefty members of Christian’s regal court, Pieter Münster (Søren Spanning) and Ditlev Reventlow (John Martinus), want to get back in favor with the King and so decide to help appoint a royal physician to tend to the kings madness, the plan being German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) gets them back into the Kings favor and secure the prestigious job for life for Struensee in return.
The King and Stuensee hit it off and soon exchanging ideas and going hunting together. The German doc is a free thinker and a socialist and soon suggesting the King think for himself and make some change for good in his kingdom, mostly run on the order of serfdom and peasantry to keep the Royal Court barons and families in their lavish palaces and in power. Then the German falls for the beautiful young queen, the lovers stealing secret moments in the palace and on the castle grounds. If the Royal Court were to find out then it’s off with his head.
The Queen loves books and joins their unofficial politburo as they discuss new ideas and how to fund them, the group passing over 100 new laws to help the people rise out of poverty. The Royal Court is getting distinctly nervous though as their stipend has to fall so to pay for the social engineering. But the Doctor is too power hungry and soon gets the king to sign over yet more powers to him as the remaining noblemen begin to plat against him and his cohorts.
Germans taking over royal families are nothing new, of course, but as I knew little about this time in Denmark (and why the hell should I) it was engaging enough to pull me in. I’m generally not a big fan of subtitled costume period dramas but as this was well rated and Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Movie then I gave it ago and glad I did. It’s not too dark or gothic, or a melodramatic bodice ripper, and moments of humor sit well with the history lesson and romance. In fact the love story is quite cold and this movie less a story about that and more about social engineering.
Mads Mikkelsen (you will know him when you see him) is an interesting actor and another reason to see this, Swedish beauty Alicia Vikander as the Queen also good. She had to learn Danish for the film in just two months. It’s a bit Blackadder at times as Mikkel Følsgaard plays his King Christian role like Hugh Laurie’s imbecile Prince Reagent (what is it with royals and madness?) and the German Doctor, Edmund Blackadder in all but name. There are plenty of Baldricks.
That Oscar nomination bumped up the box-office to a decent £8 million for a sub-titled film and director Nikolaj Arcel able to deliver his sumptuous period drama to a wider audience. Although a bit long it has a good feel to it and a little known time and place in history explored neatly for an audience that likes to learn things from their movies. The subtitles are few and far between and the dialect surprisingly pithy and easy to follow. For some reason foreign subtitled movies often appear more intelligent than they are. In fact I am convinced many English made movies seen in foreign climes with subtitles would instantly improve. Good foreign film for likewise fans.
Imdb.com – 7.6/10.0 (27,132votes)
Rottentomatos.com –89% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 73% critic’s approval
Leonard Maltin Film Year Book –
Globe & Mail – ‘For its entire incident, A Royal Affair is slow and picturesquely framed - more of a languorously animated coffee-table book than a gripping drama’.
Vue Weekley –‘ Out of some dry lines, Shakespearean allusions, and its playing with statecraft as stagecraft, this slowly emerges as more than just some ruffle-collared, frilly-cuffed throne-porn-there's a sharp quill and glinting eye behind the gilt-edged curtain.
News & Observer –‘The volatile mix of sex and politics is at the core of the sumptuously produced Danish film A Royal Affair, which, by underplaying its combustible material, fails to do full justice to it’.
The Mail –‘...a splendid demonstration of the old adage that political films are really not about the time they are set in, but the time in which they are made’.
National Post –‘The heady mix of power, politics, ideology, romance and corsets is a rare, royal feast’.
Canada.com –‘It's all high-drama and in the hands of director Arcel, every little knot in this detailed needlepoint is handled to period perfection’.