A Royal Affair

"En Kongelig affaere" is an R-rated Danish/Swedish production (it opened in March, 2012 in Denmark) based on a novel by Bodil Steensen- Leth. The story is about King Christian VII, an insane king of Denmark, whose young wife falls in love with the royal physician. Pretty tawdry stuff, huh?

That's what the over-simplified publicity says. I say that this multi-layered historical drama is absolutely wonderful from beginning to end and it makes us want to re-examine what the history books have said. Every character is fully developed, the costumes and locations are carefully reproduced and the story is based on real people, for better or for worse.

It stars:
  • Alicia Vikander ("Anna Karenina") as the young queen Caroline Mathilde, a member of the British royal family, wed to a Danish king and forever exiled from her homeland. Her situation is little better than slavery, her duty is to bear a heir, nothing more. Her beloved books are sent back to England because the censors don't approve. The camera LOVES this young woman's face!
  • Mads Mikkelsen ("After the Wedding") as the German-born physician Johann Friedrich Struensee, a reform-minded Free Thinker, who is opposed to serfdom (which is another word for slavery), eager to tax the rich to pay for orphanages, rid the streets of sewage, and vaccinate the general population against smallpox (radical ideas, indeed). This fine actor had us on the edge of our seats!
  • Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (Lots of Danish TV) is wonderful as King Christian VII, selfish, immature, spontaneous, easily misled and cruelly managed by his self-serving council. As he starts to authorize the reforms suggested by his physician, the privy council fights back. This actor makes us wonder how crazy the king really was...
This mixture of Danish, Swedish, French and German (yes, captions) has a voiceover reading a letter from the banished Queen to her children, one of whom, history tells us, is the future King Frederich VI, who trans- formed Denmark into a modern country.

Seattle is a movie-going town, but even I was surprised by the standing- room only crowd in one of the last local theaters where it is playing. I guess the folks who missed it will have to see it on DVD. Of course it being nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2013 Oscars didn't hurt, either.
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Here is a link to a trailer:
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