7 feb. 2013

My Review: A Royal Affair (8/10)

¨I am one of you¨

A Royal Affair is a Danish film that has recently been nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Film, and rightfully so. It is my favorite movie in that category so far considering this is a period drama with a great storyline, beautiful production design, and excellent performances from the lead cast. Every period drama seems to focus on the art and production design so much that it sometimes forgets about the importance of the story and character development, but that isn’t the case here because despite the careful attention to the art design there was a great story to be told. I felt this was a much more complete film than the recent remake of Anna Karenina, which also happened to star the beautiful Alicia Vikander who has a lead role here. Vikander seems perfect for these roles with her young and angelical face, and she also gives an incredible and strong performance. This movie will open several doors for her, and I expect to see her in many more films in the future. The story is based on historical events that I´m pretty sure every Danish knew about, but I was pleased to be introduced to this period of history. The screenplay was adapted by Rasmus Heisterberg from the novel written by Bodil Steensen-Leth. Heisterberg had co-written the screenplay to the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Nikolaj Arcel, the director of this film. Arcel directs this film with great craft balancing out the technical aspects with the detailed historical events that took place in this 18th century tale. This felt like a great history lesson for me (and an entertaining one at it) and was satisfied with this period drama thanks to a clever script and some strong lead performances.

The film takes place in Denmark during the mid 18th century as we are introduced to the young queen, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), from Britain who is to be married with the Danish King, Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard). She has never seen the King or knows what he is like, but royal arrangements have already been made for their marriage as she travels to Denmark to meet her husband. Upon arriving in this new land she discovers that the King is not very fond of her, he seems a little childish and giggles nervously. He receives his dog with much more love than he receives her. Caroline is resigned to live her life this way until she meets the royal physician, Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), who happens to share her same beliefs and ideals. Europe was in a state of transition as The Enlightenment movement was revolutionizing the Dark Ages with new ideas from Voltaire and Rousseau, but Denmark remained tied to the Middle Ages with their traditions. The council, formed by noble men and clergy, was running everything and Christian VII was only the puppet signing the documents. Upon the arrival of Dr. Johann Struensee, a German intellectual influenced by the enlightenment philosophy, things began to change in the Kingdom as he greatly influenced the King. Although at first he spent most his time fooling around with the King and winning his trust, he ends up falling in love with Caroline and begins to have an affair with her. Caroline realizes that Johann has a great influence in the King so she asks him to use that confidence to gain more power in the council and revolutionize the nation with humanitarian ideals.  Of course Johann´s influence on the King isn’t welcomed by the noblemen who will do what it takes to regain their power.

A Royal Affair stands out from other typical romantic triangles in that here there is really no interest from one party. The King doesn’t love his wife, and prefers to spend time with Johann fooling around. He calls his wife mother because he believes she is no fun at all. The affair would have gone unnoticed by everyone if it weren’t for the brave ideals that Caroline and Johann came up with in order to start a revolution. This is what upset the noblemen who found a way to distance the King from his physician, and this is where the tension begins to escalate in the movie. That is also what makes the romance so risky and torrid, and in a way makes the story so juicy. The film is really engaging and entertaining, and works wonderfully as a period drama. The script is very clever and introduces several quotes from Rousseau and Voltaire who were a great influence in that time period. Perhaps the films ends up being a little too predictable, but it does so because it sticks with the historical facts and that is pretty much how things happened. I thought the film ended in a rather hopeful note despite it not having a happy ending. Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, and Mikkel Boe Folsgaard stand out in this film with some terrific performances and make this film stand out above the rest.

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