A ROYAL AFFAIR—-Denmark’s greatest export besides decency would have to be Mads Mikkelsen, and the intense actor chalks up another keenly etched addition to his gallery in this 2012 Danish historical, set in the mid-1700s. Britain’s Princess Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander, also on the rise) is subject of an arranged marriage to Christian VII of Denmark (Mikell Boe Fosgaard). He turns out to be mentally ill: childish, profligate and violent. German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mikkelsen) is appointed court physician, and the lusty but humane and intelligent doctor becomes both confidant to the nutty King and secret lover to the desperately lonely Matilda.
Fascinating history lesson blended with star-crossed romance is carefully directed by Nicolaj Arcel, who wrote the keen script with Rasmus Heisterberg. Not an epic, and with no battles or grand pomp, it’s a story of the Enlightenment’s progressive liberal ideas running afoul of the displaced status quo. If good can come of this, it will as ever have to run through the ringer first, and the drama heightens as the measured 137 minutes play out. An eavesdrop sense of period is conveyed, it’s exciting to see the societal reforms take shape, and the love scenes have heat, more so because the characters are sharing the excitement of freeing ideas and discovery as much as physical combustion.
Cast is superb, with Fosgaard a standout, both repellent and pitiable as the whim-prone, easily swayed ruler. Production cost was $8,406,000 (or 46 million krone if you dare quibble), reviews were strong, box-office was a weak $14,700,000. Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
With David Dencik, Soren Mailling and Trine Dyrholm (from A Better World ). Mostly shot in Prague and the Czech Republic, making castles and countryside do for their friends in Copenhagen.