In 1767, the British Princess Caroline is betrothed to the mad King Christian VII of Denmark, but her life with the erratic monarch in the oppressive country becomes an isolating misery. However, Christian soon gains a fast companion with the German Dr. Johann Struensee, a quietly idealistic man of the Enlightenment. As the only one who can influence the King, Struensee is able to begin sweeping enlightened reforms of Denmark through Christian even as Caroline falls for the doctor. However, their secret affair proves a tragic mistake that their conservative enemies use to their advantage in a conflict that threatens to claim more than just the lovers as their victims. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The film's director, Nikolaj Arcel, made a Director's Statement for the picture. It reads: "A ROYAL AFFAIR is based on one of the most dramatic events in Denmark and indeed European history; whenever I used to pitch the film to foreign investors, people had a hard time believing that the story was true, that these momentous events had actually happened in the late 1700's. In Denmark however, it is taught in school, more than 15 books have been written about it (both factual and fictional) and there has even been an opera and a ballet. I feel honored and extremely lucky to finally bring the full story to the screen. Tonally, I was inspired by the great epics from the 40's and 50's where films would often feel like literary works, structured around characters and the passage of time, and not clearly following the obvious screenplay roadmaps. But my creative team and I were also fired up by the idea of bringing the Scandinavian historical drama into the new century. We wanted to achieve this by adhering to a self-imposed rule; we didn't want to "show" history, didn't want to dwell pointlessly on the big official events, the fancy dresses and hairdos, or the way the food was served. Rather, we wanted people to simply experience the story through the eyes of the characters, taking the 1760's for granted. Even though the period is obviously there in the set designs, the costumes it was filmed and edited as we would have filmed and edited a film taking place in modern Copenhagen. Finally, Gabriel Yared and Cyrille Auforts' beautiful score has brought the film full circle, and home to its epic roots. - Nikolaj Arcel, Director / Writer". See more »
Juliane Marie tells the servants that if they know about the affair and try to conceal it, it's a mortal sin and they will end up in purgatory. The danish religious view in the 18th century was Lutheran protestantism, which denies the presence of purgatory. See more »
[writing a letter]
I'm trying to remember him. Johann. I have to tell you about him. About us. Why we did the things we did.
My beloved children, you do not know me, but I am your mother. Perhaps you have never forgiven me. Perhaps you hate me. I hope not. I now know that I will never see you again, so I am writing to tell you the truth, before it's too late.
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Historically relevant, A Royal Affair shows its true period-drama nature in the very intelligent and detailed storyline, steadfast and conspicuous acting, and, most of all, sumptuous and glorious interiors, which actually enhance the visual experience significantly. The film expressively reminds the world once again about the illicit affair between Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), the beautiful Queen of Denmark, and the enlightened, German-born physician named Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). In all its courtly essence, A Royal Affair presents this 18th century tale with utmost thoroughness, adding huge amounts of tension to its naturalistic substance with every following minute. While it's mostly recognized for the meaningful romantic overtone, this film presents much more than that, even though the star-crossed lovers prove to have the biggest impact on the unexpected turn of events.
It starts very similarly to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, with a young princess bound to marry a king she doesn't even know, through the old-fashioned way of a royal transaction. Right after the Queen finally sets her lovely eyes on the mysterious husband-to-be one thing is certain – there is something wrong with his majestic appearance. Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) giggles nervously, and is more interested in greeting his own dog than the woman, with whom he will probably (but not likely) spend the rest of his palace life. Right after the both absolutely awkward and truly humorous announcement of King's nightly visit in his wife's bedroom, and Caroline's anxiously awaited pregnancy, it becomes perfectly clear that the pair won't present itself in the expected, regal way. Those two characters don't even intend to give the appearance of being fully in love with each other. The king wanders angrily around the luxurious chambers making fun of everyone, not knowing that he ostentatiously presents all of his biggest weaknesses. At the same time, the Queen spends most of her time with the newborn baby. When Christian proclaims his forthcoming trip around Europe nobody realizes that big and sudden changes are about to happen. During the journey King's mental illness becomes worse. He needs a private doctor and he needs him quick. This is the moment when Johan Struensee first shows his handsome face. Apart from his unquestionable medical abilities, he proves to be a great admirer of the Enlightenment movement's greatest thinkers and their innovative works, and that's what makes him an ideal partner for the King. After returning to the country, their companionship grows stronger every day. Unfortunately, so does Johan's affection towards Queen's awe-inspiring persona. After a while, it becomes awfully obvious that they won't be able to suppress their deepest urges and a risky romance will soon take place, one that might actually begin a new era in the history of Denmark. Scheming behind the back of the wig-wearing, ignorant council, Caroline and Struensee use the gullible King for the sake of a greater good – they create many new and reformative laws, and using Christian's powerful, yet unstable hand they end up improving the whole land and its citizens' life, rushing Denmark towards the desired Enlightenment.
As history so often shows, when there is the optimistic, hard-working side there must also be the pessimistic, mischievous one. In A Royal Affair, it takes the form of an ominous, recalcitrant aristocrat named Ove Høegh-Guldberg (David Dencik). Conspiring along with Christian's stepmother Juliane Marie (Trine Dyrholm) he comes up with a perfect plan to get rid of the unwanted German and, at the same time, bring back Denmark's old 'glory'. Revealing the shocking truth about Queen being pregnant with Struensee he wreaks havoc among the society. The return of the Dark Ages is upon Denmark, and no one is able to stop this devastating process, as the King gave in to Ove's strong and convincing character, and, ultimately, to his own illness. Johann and Caroline are banished from the Kingdom, just to see that, sadly, their thorough plan wasn't actually meant to help anyone.
With its splendidly high entertainment value, A Royal Affair turns out to be a history lesson for everyone. Considerable attention to details in plot and in art design brings out the true substance of the film. The costumes are pitch-perfect, the music flows adequately to the events, and the ongoing transition in the atmosphere intensifies the reception of the whole. A Royal Affair possesses a great energy, which shows its true strength in all the performances. Without offending anyone from the amazing cast, it's important to note that Mads Mikkelsen gave the most award-worthy performance, showing the straightforwardly persuasive impassiveness that may really convince his fans and anti-fans alike. Therefore, those irrefutable acting skills, combined with a well-written script and steady direction, make A Royal Affair one of the most memorable Danish movies of the last decade.
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