Friend to the King, Lover to the Queen
Regional Editor and Movie Reviewer – GRAND Magazine
This might sound like a familiar storyline, comparable to “Camelot,” but “A Royal Affair” is anything but that. This film is based on the true life story of the slightly dysfunctional, perhaps eccentric or maybe bipolar, Danish King Christian VII.
It explores his controlling court and his endearing friendship with a common physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, who becomes the King’s confidant and, ultimately, the lover of King’s beautiful, albeit strong-minded, Queen Caroline Mathilda.
“A Royal Affair” eloquently voices three stories. One tells of the King’s desire for curing Queen Caroline’s depression and aggression. Another is the story of a country’s desire for transformation. The last is the tale of a King’s dysfunction and the pivotal role his physician played in the history of Demark.
To cure the Queen, the King insists that his physician, Struensee, spend time with her in hopes that Struensee might have some remedy to make her more pleasant and enjoyable. When the physician and the Queen spend time together – horseback riding, sharing books, and discussing new world thoughts – the inevitable attraction occurs.
Struensee is an avid believer of the enlightenment philosophy. He is idealistic and wants to transform Denmark into a model country for reform and dignity. Struensee’s power and influence over the King grows as does the friendship between the two.
The King’s improved ability to manage his insanity and his royal duties is the charming result of their unlikely friendship. However, this newfound ability was not viewed with favor by the court and, most certainly, not by his self-serving stepmother, Queen Dowager Juliane Marie, whose sole intent is to have her son reign as King.
The cinematography is stunning and the actors are brilliant at portraying the period of 18th century Denmark. The film beautifully portrays lush countryside scenes and lavish palace balls which showcased the splendor of this period piece film. But all is not well in this dark period for Demark. Cruelty is prevalent, the lack of sanitation breeds disease and care for humankind is scarce.
For days after watching the film I found myself wondering what it must have been like – to live in those times; being forcibly arrested, taken away, brutally tortured and often killed without any judicial order. The film director and actors interpretations were so real they continue to haunt me.
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, “A Royal Affair,” stars the popular Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee, the hottest new actress from Sweden, Alicia Vikander, as Queen Caroline Mathilda, and Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as King Christian VII.
“A Royal Affair” is subtitled in English and is this year’s Danish submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Both “A Royal Affair” and the French film “Intouchables” have very high probabilities of winning the Oscar. It will be interesting to see which film wins the coveted award.