A Royal Affair – A Danish Film Of A Mad King, A Lonely Queen, And A Visionary Physician

A Danish movie

The title says it all.  Set in the 18th century, Danish King Christian VII was mentally unwell.  Caroline Mathilde from Great Britain was married to Christian at the age of 15 and became queen.  German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee had attended the king’s sickness.  In the mist of it, he had become the king’s trusted friend and later on, an affair with the young and lonely queen.  As the king’s close friend, the physician played an essential part in shaping the country’s policies, which until now, had been mostly ruled by the Council due to the king’s sickness.  As the queen’s lover, the physician risked throwing away the political progress he had gained, which was ultimately the progress of the country.

I love watching European films inspired by historical events.  The plot is less formulaic than, say, a Hollywood movie.  European filmmakers tend to take their time in giving the film a treatment it deserves.  A Royal Affair is a 137 minutes long movie.  The story is engaging so much so that I wish the ending could have been expanded in some ways, rather than a paragraph of words or two on the screen.  The cinematography is beautiful.  Each frame’s composition is an art.  The music score is good too.  It goes well with the plot’s development.

Mads Mikkelsen’s role and the fact that he can act is a surprise to me.  He is often seen in Western movies as a villain (like many foreign artists come to think on it).  In A Royal Affair, he could well be a hero of the country.  He has a set of visionary policies based on his freethinking ideals.  Unfortunately, he was ahead of his time.  His policies were  implemented only by the next generation.  This prompted TK and I to reflect upon our local political atmosphere. We joked that the reason why A Royal Affair is being rated M18 in Singapore  is due to its anti-establishment sentiment.  There is very little blood and gore, equally little sex.  The most I would rate is a NC16.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander looks really young in this movie.  Having read the history, I can understand why.  It is pretty hard to act mentally unstable.  All credit to Mikkel Følsgaard’s boyish performance.  He is funny to watch but not without inducing a sense of pity from the audience.  At times, I could feel the king’s internal struggle as he threaded between the line that separate sanity from insanity.

Royal affair is a messy business.  But at least, for this historical story, there was something good coming out from it.

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