I meant to see A Royal Affair during award’s season last year, not just because it was nominated for an Oscar, but also because I absolutely fell in love with Alicia Vikander in Anna Karenina, and was so excited that there was another awards movie starring her, but for one reason or another I didn’t get around to it. I should have tried harder – this movie is stunning.
Visually it’s everything a sixteenth century period piece should be: beautiful costumes, disgustingly decadent sets, contrasted with grit and grime out where “the people are.” But the real power lies in the surprisingly true story of the Queen of Denmark (Vikander) who, fed up with her clearly insane husband King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), begins an affair with his personal physician Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), who convinces the King to begin radical reforms, essentially legislating the Enlightenment, which of course doesn’t sit well with the nobility at court…
This could easily be a melodrama, and let’s be real if this movie had been made in Hollywood it probably would have been, but in the hands of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, it’s a wonderful political story and a heart wrenching portrait of the strange entanglements that monarchy created back in the days when they were all expected to marry their cousins.
Even the King’s madness, which could easily have been over the top and led to tons of scenery chewing, was handled with great sensitivity by Følsgaard. After awhile he seems like nothing more harmless than a child, manipulated by whoever happens to be flattering him at the time. At times he’s cruel, but you can see that it comes from the fact he doesn’t understand why he isn’t like everyone else. Følsgaard’s complex performance is remarkable, and astounding considering according to IMDB he was still in drama school when the movie was made.
Vikander was just as beautiful as I expected her to be, and she had wonderful chemistry with Mikkelsen, though I think she would probably have chemistry with a brick wall. I guess I’ll see if this is true of him as well, because I’m using him as the next link in my chain (mostly because the other stars are so young that almost all their other movies are in Swedish or Danish and I don’t really want to get stuck with a chain full of movies I can’t find anywhere in this country.) So it’s on to another historical romance Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.