Set in the 18th century; this costume drama is an amorous return to Danish history marked by the Age of Enlightenment. It explores a scandalous affair between German physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) and the Queen of Denmark, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander).
When the main story begins; both protagonists are left-wing progressives living in authoritarian, repressive times that precede the French Revolution.
As a gesture of political union, young Caroline leaves England to marry King Christian VII of Denmark. But the marriage proves difficult with his mental illness. Soon she resigns to fate, believing her calling in life is reduced to carrying the bloodline for the monarch… until Struensee enters the royal scene.
Emboldened by his adventurous spirit and intellectual views, both Christian and Caroline connect with Struensee — thus setting in motion a chain of reforms that shake the country’s cabinet and people.
For a brief moment in time, all three are pivotal to radical change including laws that abolish torture and slave trade; initiatives that bring vaccination to the peasants.
But this film is titled A Royal Affair and let’s face it, nothing is hotter than repression and forbidden sex. Struensee is handsome, wild haired, glassy-eyed stallion and Caroline is rosy-cheeked elegance with a twang of defiance. Tender yearning gives way to furtive desire and the place is a tiny room by the back of a hot kitchen.
Yet there’s a hitch for voyeurs of this salacious affair — beyond being an adulterer himself, Christian (Mikkel Følsgaard in an underrated performance) is actually endearing in some ways.
His fondness for Struensee and protectiveness of him in the royal court creates a sympathetic character that makes it difficult for onlookers to turn away.
In the hands of director Nikolaj Arcel, A Royal Affair recounts one forgotten romance etched in the history of sweeping change inspired by Voltaire and Rousseau — well-paced, tastefully executed and featuring strong performances by all leads. This Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film presents itself as a dramatic tragedy underscored by human thirst for expression, power, meaning and redemption.
LANGUAGE IN DANISH