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)
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander had to learn Danish. Vikander spent two months in Copenhagen in Denmark learning Danish prior to principal photography. See more »
The Danish colloquialism "rolig nu" ("easy now") features in the dialogue, but this is a modern innovation dating back only to the 1990s or so. 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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A fantastic film about a country whose history is seldom portrayed, A Royal Affair is a historical drama set in the latter half of the 18th century in Denmark. An English girl is sent off to marry the Danish king, only to find out that he's not fully sane. In her loneliness she falls for the king's doctor, and they find they share not only amorous feelings for one another, but a passion for Enlightenment ideas and political reforms.
There are a few caricatures in this movie that keep me from giving it a higher score: the reactionary forces are pure, unalloyed evil; the reformers are probably far more liberal in thinking than would have been possible in that era; and the preaching against established religion is a bit thick. But otherwise, this is a gem of a movie with outstanding performances in all three key roles, particularly the doctor who is portrayed with an incredible intensity and realism. Also noteworthy is the king who is not quite sane yet not totally loony either; the acting here is frighteningly good and utterly convincing. Last but not least, the queen excels in showing real pathos and long-suffering endurance trapped in her destiny, and then comes alive beautifully in her relationship with the doctor.
As icing on the cake, costumes are sumptuous, period settings flawless, and the music is era-appropriate and delightfully arcane. Original music is also quite good, though most of the time one is so engrossed in the story that the music just vanishes. Movie is almost all in Danish with English subtitles, and I felt the size/font choice for the titles was too big, too pushy, you never quite forget that you're reading titles.
This is a tale of exploration of the darker side of the human experience: what does it mean to be sane, how can a divinely ordained monarch be deprived of his wits, to what lengths will a person go to promote his/her progeny into power, are the "unwashed masses" really grateful to those who try to emancipate them? This movie (and its three main characters) will haunt you for many days.
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