Movie Review: “A Royal Affair” – Viewers Not Cheated

Written by Jasmine Steffler February 20, 2013

Better

Watching a movie with a reference to infidelity in the title is probably the first clue that you are going to walk straight into an emotional mess. “A Royal Affair”, though, is a winding road of a movie that the affair is often just in the back of your mind as you find yourself involved in the various decisions and eccentricities of the characters. Secret rendezvous are had, trust is broken, offenders are prosecuted, but the only thing that remains in your mind is the utter confinement of each character; how each of them probably couldn’t have chosen differently given their social positions. In this way, “A Royal Affair” is the thing you can’t look away from even though you know it won’t end pretty.

“I have to tell you about…why we did the things we did”

The story, based on historical events, begins in 1766, with the future Queen leaving her home in England for Denmark to meet the King (and her betrothed husband), Christian. Christian is disgusting from the beginning, and clearly not a winner in the eyes of the new Queen either (he does, however, have a distinctive giggle/chortle that you won’t want to miss).

The new Queen obviously isn’t fulfilled and it isn’t until Christian’s new doctor, Struensee, arrives that she starts having any fervor for life. Christian also esteems Struensee very highly, the doctor being the only person that he truly trusts. Struensee rapidly finds himself in a pickle, and we get to go along for the painful but compelling ride.

The doctor completely drives the movie, being the super seductive libertine that he is. He tames the bad tempered Christian by bonding with him over Shakespeare quotes. He strengthens the bond further by taking him to whore-houses and opposing him in fencing. Christian, presented pretty much as a moody man-child, is finally content and even starts to treat the Queen more like a human being. The Queen initially doesn’t approve of the doctor’s methods, but when she sees that these activities calm Christian the hell down, she bites her tongue. She starts to want to be around Struensee as well and he soon introduces her to Rousseau and Voltaire; they discuss some of their political views, and consequently quite naturally fall into the eponymous affair.

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Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen, the actors who respectively play the Queen and the doctor are completely enchanting in their roles, the Queen becoming more and more likable as the film progresses and the doctor becoming more and more of a real person, and less of a care free, free-spirited libertine. Christian grows too, in his own way, or at least his affinity for “hookers with big breasts and fighting” as he puts it, seems to gradually decrease and he becomes a relatively loyal husband. Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, the actor who plays Christian is also extremely talented, portraying the extreme poles of the King’s personality.

It Must All Be A Misunderstanding…

The characters speak almost entirely in German; but I found that the language barrier added rather than detracted from the appeal of the film. Some words just need to be said in German. Christian’s laugh has to be a German laugh. There’s an urgency about the language that adds to the already intriguing plot. The conversations seem to echo in your psyche days after watching. There are nothing like subtitles to make you actually pay attention to what the characters are saying.

There’s a lot to be said for an optimistic end to a movie that leaves you feeling fulfilled and satisfied. There’s also something to be said about a movie that distributes its intensity throughout the film but fails to end on a high note. “A Royal Affair” fulfills the latter criteria. While the film practically guts the viewer at the end and leaves only a gaping emptiness, it does at least leave a memorable feeling. The emotional mess is its charm. This is a novelty in a time when we often cannot separate one romantic ending from another.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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