Rated: R for sexual content and some violent images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 9, 2012 Released by: MAGNOLIA PICTURES
This Danish (fully subtitled) import is a graceful, sumptuously mounted period souffle that will enlighten art house devotees to its dusky age and could resonate in a timely way with Western audiences.
A Royal Affair stars Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard and Trine Dyrholm and works its power through romance as well as convincing historical reenactment.
In 1766 Denmark seemed oblivious to a changing political climate in Europe thanks mainly to a hedonistic, very childish and/or deranged young ruler - King Christian VII (Folsgaard). A vigorous, painterly portrait here - gloomy looking at the outset finds the poor in squalid conditions given the control allotted to wealthy lords or land owners.
Director Nikolaj Arcel provides a rather vivid, refreshing fascination to a turbulent period in constructing the screenplay with Rasmus Heisterberg (with unbilled assistance from Lars Von Trier Melancholia).
The unsophisticated ruler is set to be wed to his teenage Welsh cousin Caroline (a striking Vikander who may remind some of Natalie Portman) in keeping with tradition. It leaves the new queen shocked when it comes to a lascivious fool disinterested when it comes to making progress in a rotten, regressing nation. Christian's cravings keep his effortless advisers on the outskirts as his dysfunctional background leaves him desiring as his stepmother (Dyrholm) wickedly lurks around his foppish presence.
Seemingly unfit to govern, this young king finds favor with his personal doctor Johann Struensee (Mikkelsen) who is influenced by the (radical) writings of Rousseau and Voltaire. Johan's steely vision gravitates in his thoughts when it comes to the poor and utilizing finances. During his rise the bold physician also illicitly becomes involved with a neglected queen.
Under the assured, impressive guidance of Arcel for the material the result isn't as dry as many may perceive it to be. That's in part to allowing the subject to unfold in full temporal bounty so as to flaunt its focal cunning. And, in turn, letting his actors like Folsgaard, Vikander shine, and particularly Mikkelsen (a strong sanguine-tear villain in Casino Royale and King Arthur) excel in a demanding role evinced with deft subtly nuanced flair (especially when it comes to social progress). It helps that the accomplished Danish A-lister has more than palatable chemistry with someone much (a generation) younger like Vikander who (if her turn here is any indication) is clearly more than a pretty face.
A lush production is just another reason why A Royal Affair entices through atmosphere (as its variable hues demonstrate) and insight without being bombastic or stolid in the least in its affection for grim,complicated Danish days giving the genre a much-needed fashion and finesse.
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