Review: ‘A Royal Affair’ (M) ????

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WAS Christian VII, of Denmark, insane or merely intellectually and morally inadequate to govern a small nation where he simply took part in the deliberations of an appointed cabinet without ruling in the accepted sense?

Why should we get excited about Nikolaj Arcel’s film excellently canvassing the relationship between Christian, his wife, the English Princess Caroline, and the country physician Johannes Struensee, who came to court to minister to the king’s medical needs?

If you must have an answer to that, go see the film. It’s handsomely mounted, wonderfully acted, dramatically profound, ultimately tragic with overtones of optimism that might make a further film about how Christian’s son Frederick, ruling as Prince Regent, set in train reforms that swept away Denmark’s feudal system by implementing Enlightenment reforms that Christian and Struensee tried but failed to cement in place. If its treatment of history cuts corners, consider that as pardonable excision of boring bits.

Mads Mikkelsen as Struensee, Mikkel Folsgard as Christian and Alicia Vikkander as Caroline do great honour to their roles, as does David Dencik as Guldberg whose machinations in Cabinet, with the dowager queen’s (Trine Dyrholm) support, brought down Christian and Struensee’s initial reforms.

The film offers more than 18th century oligarchy. Its narrative thread tells how Caroline sought emotional consolation from Struensee and, in time, bore him a daughter. Those passages are tender and beautiful, made fearful by the film’s revelation of Guldberg’s schemings.

At Dendy and Greater Union

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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