A Royal Affair
- Director: Nikolaj Arcel
- Genre: Drama
- Cert: 15A
- Details: Denmark / 137mins
Nikolaj Arcel and Ramus Heisterberg, the writing team behind King's Game and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, have come up with this thoroughly engaging period drama based on a true story.
Influenced by the likes of Voltaire, John Locke and other writers of the Enlightenment, German doctor Johan Streunsee (Mikkelsen) worms his way into the favour of King Christian (Folsgaard), the weak Danish king governed by his council, and sets about implementing sweeping social changes that will rescue Denmark from the Dark Ages. As Johan and Christian becomes genuine friends, with the doctor encouraging the king to be the man he could be, complicating matters is Johan's feelings for the queen, Caroline (Vikander), who is in a loveless marriage of convenience to the king.
Making a love triangle work, we need to be invested in all three parties - not have two people who should be together and a third who is merely an obstacle - and Arcel and Heisterberg do just that. At first, Christian is a buffoon, verging on a temperament that would rival Caligula, but Arcel strips away layers to reveal an insecure man so belittled by the older men his father had appointed he has retreated into an almost childlike state with a tendency to call his wife 'mother'. Johan too is portrayed as a noble man - we’re introduced to him as he performas surgery on the sick for free; in another he gently lifts the body of a man who has been tortured to death -and it's his kind manner and forward thinking that Caroline is attracted to. However, peel the onion and we find ourselves a power-hungry bully no worse than those he has disposed. Later, when faced with a baying crowd, he mumbles his defence: 'I'm one of you,' but such is the lack of conviction in his voice neither we, nor he, believes it anymore.
The onion layers stop there, though, as Vikander's Caroline isn’t given the depth the men are given. However, Vikander makes up for that in being luminous in the film's most powerful scenes. But maybe A Royal Affair is a bromance at heart and Caroline is the obstacle of these two men being together. It all depends on which way you look at it.
Romance, sex, bromance and politics all played out in sumptuous looking sets, A Royal Affair is an attractive one.
Review by Gavin Burke | 12:58 | Friday 15th June 2012 | Movie Review
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