Director: Nikolaj Arce
Screenplay: Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Trine Dyrholm
Executive producers: Lars Von Trier, Peter Aalbaek Jensen
Producers: Louise Vesth, Sisse Graum Jorgensen, Meta Foldager
Running time: 128 minutes
BBFC Rating: 15
Set in 1770s Denmark, A Royal Affair proves that the UK is not the only country capable of making compelling period dramas.
The film is based on the real-life story of the marriage between Caroline Mathilda, sister of George III (the mad one) of England, who married King Christian VII of Denmark. After being initially excited by the marriage, she was only 15, as the king was said to be fond of things such as acting, she soon realises that he had mental health problems.
It is this mental health issue that brings a new, German, physician into court; Dr Johan Struensee. He is initially assigned to work with the king but then also starts to aid the queen as well.
Now the name of the film tells you a lot about what happens and if you read the back of the box and look at the pictures, they also give away rather too much for my liking. That said, though it doesn’t take too much away from the film.
Dr Struensee is played by former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen, he of the weeping blood from Casino Royale. He is excellent, in fact everybody is, making for a very convincing and gripping film. Mikkel Boe Følsgaard who plays Christian is particularly good at playing the, at times bonkers king shouting out lines of the play he is actually watching and other crazy stuff.
The one, tiny, complaint we would have is that Caroline is shown at the start of the film to be English, though of course she would have been Hanovarian. She then slips into speaking perfect Danish without much effort. Maybe these royals could do this, who knows!
Having said this, just about everything about the film is spot on. The costumes, the locations, the props all help make you think you are looking in on late 18th century Europe and all the radical ideas that were being floated around at the time.
One issue we do have with the production is that the subtitles are at times hard to read as they are white without any kind of background to them. Most films put them on a slightly transparent backing so that when shown over something white in the film you can read them.
The DVD comes with a few interviews with leading cast, Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander who plays Caroline as well as the director. You can also see the trailer.
If you are a fan of well-made, period dramas then A Royal Affair is definitely for you. It is perhaps a little too long, which isn’t helped by the fact that it’s quite clear, early on what is going to happen. It certainly makes a nice change from endless reworkings of Jane Austen books though, that’s for certain.
Review by Henry Tucker