Category Archives: danish

62. A Royal Affair – Nikolaj Arcel (2012)

First viewing.

I’m not the biggest royalist around, in fact, I’m rather apathetic to the whole damn thing, but I am definitely a geak for all things Scandanavian or Nordic. And, ordinarily, I’m more of a Mumblecore fan than a period piece fan when it comes to picking my movies, but upon narrowing down Saturday evening’s cinematic viewing to either the Danish tale A Royal Affair or Lynn Shelton’s next generation mumblecore flick Your Sister’s Sister I wasn’t too disappointed to lose the vote and make for the showing of A Royal Affair instead. If the reviews were anything to go by then A Royal Affair should be entertaining enough.

It’s quite a detailed story, but, in brief, the narrative evolves around the King of Denmark, Christian VII, his Queen, Caroline, and their physician Johann Friedrich Struensee . Christian VII is, as all great kings are, an eccentric. And when I say eccentric it wouldn’t be a push to call him mad. He, it seems, has little love for his newly wed Queen and would rather spend his time in establishments of ill repute. Naturally Caroline becomes lonely and starts to resent her husband. The establishment is, of course, worried by Christian VII’s actions and set out to find him a physician who can curb the king’s wayward actions. This is where Struensee enters the story. He strikes up an immediate rapport with the king and they become close friends. Struensee is a forward thinker, a man of the enlightened age, and he uses his influence with the king to push through reforms of the ultra-conservative Danish law. This is where the story unravels like a Shakespearian tragedy; Caroline and Struensee begin the eponymous Royal Affair, the central government hits back at King Christian’s plans, and death, banishment and fever pierce through the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

I have to confess that despite a mild anxiousness as I entered the cinema I was thoroughly entertained by the film. It is beautifully shot, Denmark’s countryside looks especially beautiful. The composition of each frame is careful and loving with nothing feeling out of place. The script is slow and careful, but builds climatically. Each of the main characters are rendered in a believable way, you feel like you are watching them evolve as the movie enters it’s second half. There is quite a lot of political talk, it’s certainly not a straight romance, but the politics in the movie are hugely fascinating (to me, at least.) The acting is excellent. Christian VII, played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, was my own personal favourite of the three main characters. His character went from being utterly dislikeable to a man of courage, and it felt like a completely organic arc. The direction is mostly spot on, it occasionally lingers too long on one area or repeats certain actions, but this is just a minor quibble.

To sum up I’d recommend this movie highly. It deserves all the positive reviews it’s been receiving and certainly don’t be put off by seeing a movie about 19th century Danish politics and royalty.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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35. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

First Viewing.

I knew almost nothing about this film before viewing it, and perhaps it was helped by the lack of expectations, but this really captivated me from the opening seconds. No doubt this was helped by the stunning editing of Ryan Gosling’s Driver passing through LA, at night, cut to Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx. It’s a great way to start a movie (I never thought I’d get to namecheck some CSS with this film either!) Drive draws heavily from the film noir genre – little dialogue, a femme fatale-ish character, a mysterious protagonist, and all kinds of trouble going down – but it also has it’s own modern style. I suppose you could compare it to Rian Johnson’s Brick with it’s composition of the contemporary and the old noir. I’m also really starting to be impressed with Gosling’s collection of work, I know he has done some mainstream stuff to pay the bills, but Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, and the brilliant Blue Valentine are a fine trilogy (I’m looking forward to seeing The Ides of March at some point too.) The film never lags or feels bloated, despite the drawn out nature of some of the scenes, and it’s definitely one of the best contemporary movies I’ve seen in quite some time. The only downside to the movie is the relatively minor role Carey Mulligan has, she never gets much to say or do, and a little more interaction with Gosling would have been fun to see. Perhaps I was just hoping he could rekindle some of the electric chemistry he had with Michelle Williams, from Blue Valentine, back here with Mulligan. Nevertheless it’s a movie that cannot fail to impress.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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33. Melancholia – Lars Von Trier (2011)

First Viewing.

“The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it.” A masterpiece, a miserable, miserable masterpiece.

It’s been two years since I unknowingly ventured into the cinematic hell that was called Antichrist and I don’t think I’ve recovered from that experience yet. I’m still not able to look at a block of wood without breaking into a cold sweat. Thankfully, I guess, Von Trier’s Melancholia is just mental torture. The opening scene is magnificent, it’s so incredibly beautifully created that it would rival Werckmeister Harmonies’ opening scene in accomplishment. It’s a very beautiful movie from start to finish in truth, and it needs to be, the subject nature and script is so painfully depressing that one needs the distraction. I can’t think of a movie that’s ever left me feeling quite so empty inside. It’s really something. While Von Trier’s direction is essential to the film’s fascination it’s Kirsten Dunst’s performance that gives us a wonderfully controlled and convincing view of Justine’s depression. It’s painful to watch, but it never becomes unbearable or cliché. It’s hard to summarise a movie like this when it’s so powerful and affecting, it really needs to be seen to be understood. Be warned though, there’s not an ounce of fun to be had.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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23. Vampyr – Carl Theodor Dreyer (1932)

First Viewing.

Following on from possibly the coolest film ever made we have the perhaps the creepiest, fuck, it’s creepier than hiding in your mother’s closet and watching her undress.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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17. The Passion of Joan of Arc – Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928)

First Viewing.

Wow. If Maria Falconetti’s performance as Joan doesn’t move you in a significant way then I would suggest contacting a therapist or, perhaps, an undertaker. I can honestly say that I’ve never been more captured and entranced by a performance than by what I have just witnessed by Falconetti, (which is saying something indeed when you consider this is a silent picture!) Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” score, recorded years after the film’s completion, just adds to the everlasting beauty.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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