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