It’s February and it’s the love month. What better way to celebrate this month is to feature some essential movies about love. And most usually, when one defines love, one is talking about tragedy. These are the basic elements of the 2012 Danish film A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære).
Set in Denmark in the 18th century, when principles of the Enlightenment gently crept into Europe, the movie traces the cunning rise into power and bitter downfall of German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee in the courts of young King Christian VII. The movie opens with the leading lady Queen Caroline Matilda of Great Britain showing a letter to her children and confessing to them a dark truth. The movie then rewinds to the start of this tragic history.
The queen arrives in Denmark for a royal marraige but soon discovers that her king is mentally deranged and that his Privy Council actually heads the country. The king dislikes their marriage, and instead, he suddenly decides to tour Europe. The court then hires Struensee as his personal physician.
Played by Danish superstar Mads Dittmann Mikkelsen, Struensee is portrayed as a man of mystery. It was a period of Enlightenment, but here comes a man who kept his secret fancy to the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau from the state. Here comes a sexy and foxy man, with looks and intelligence that sometimes can be that lethal.
For in a pivotal twists of events, Struensee and Queen Caroline falls ”in love” on each other. For each has dangerous longings, a desire that only the other can satisfy. The queen experiences love and lust beyond her control, and soon becomes pregnant. The doctor experiences power and control as he pursuades the king to assign him the right to pass any law, and soon gets trapped into a web of politics and intrigues.
With a baby and a coup on the way, how will these two estranged souls brave the drama? Yet, in the end, one has to ask: is it love, or is it the hunger and idealism that brought them together?
The film is as entrancing as is it daring. Shoot in many locations in Prague, it is a movie of many contradictions. It was set on the Enlightment period, but secrets were everywhere on the royal court. It was a period of wisdom, but ignorance is prevalent and innocence is wasted. It was a period of reformation, but also a return to the old, awkward ways. And amidst these contradictions, two souls paralleled on a fate beyond the mind, and even the heart, can control.
Themes like these are prevalent in the movies and in history. Countless stories of love and tragedy has been told and heard. ”A Royal Affair” is no exception. But with its big budget, romantic backdrop, and good-looking casts, the film offered a refreshing and delightful experience to such stories.
”A Royal Affair” is Denmark’s official entry to both 85th Academy Awards and 70th Golden Globe, though it lost to other quality films. At the 62nd Berin International Film Festival, it received two Silver Bears. As of Frebruary 2014, it received a rating of 7.6/10 in IMDb, 73% at Metacritic, and 89% freshness at Rotten Tomatoes.
Rating: Five stars out of five for this movie. It is simply familiar and beautiful.