My Thoughts On… A Royal Affair

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to the section titled Why Should You See This Film?where you will find no spoilers!

Synopsis

A young queen, who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician – and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • A Royal Affair is really good film. It has a great, true story at its heart, and truly fantastic performances. The story is completely absorbing; a young queen with liberal leanings and one eye on the Enlightenment marries the king of Denmark, who has some obvious mental issues. When she realises that his new doctor shares her political ideas, they not only fall in love, but also work to influence policy. It literally has it all; political intrigue, passion, betrayal, family feuds. It’s such a great story, and all the more amazing for being true.
  • The performances are something to be marvelled at. Mads Mikkelsen, as Johann Friedrich Struensee, the doctor who is brought in to administer treatment and counsel to the king, is just wonderful all the way through, but never more so than in his final scene. It’s heartbreaking, and amazing, and it made me cry. Alicia Vikander, as Caroline, also does an amazing job; she is imprisoned in a life that does nothing to fulfil her until she meets Struensee, and watching them fall in love over Rousseau and Voltaire is brilliant.
  • The performance that really blew me away, however, was that of Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as King Christian VII of Denmark. History seems to have concluded that he had severe emotional issues, possibly suffering from schizophrenia. Følsgaard plays this side of him just perfectly; going from childish glee at the sight of his dog, to irrational anger. When Struensee enters his life, he finally seems to have found someone who can both deal with his emotional issues and treat him with a certain level of respect. There’s a lovely scene where Christian and Caroline are sitting together, waiting to see if their baby son is going to survive an experimental inoculation administered by Struensee. When the doctor joins them to wait out the night, Christian takes Struensee’s hand, and they wait together.
  • I love the questions that the film asks; although it seems as though Struensee is using his position as Christian’s advisor for good, to push through liberal reform that will transform the country, you have to question the way he goes about it. He takes the position in the first place at the urging of two lords who want him to convince the king to give them their power and influence back, so it’s clear from the start that he has no intention of merely doing his job as a doctor. Once he takes his position, he realises that he has a unique opportunity to make a real difference in the country, and though he is doing it is for entirely altruistic reasons, he is still taking advantage of a mentally challenged man in order to do so. Later, having made censorship illegal, he reverses his decision when he realises that people are writing in a less than flattering light about the queen and him. There are really interesting moral questions being asked, and it made the film even more enjoyable.
  • The very end of the film was fabulous; there’s some on-screen text about the fate of Caroline and Christian’s son that actually made me cheer!

 

What I Didn’t Like

  • This is one of the best films I have watched in a long time; there’s nothing about it I didn’t like.

Why Should You See This Film?

I can’t recommend this film enough. If you have any interest in historical fiction, you should seek this film out immediately. I love history, and learning about periods I don’t know an awful lot about. Suffice to say, 18th Century Denmark isn’t exactly my specialist subject, but I enjoyed finding out about a story that has everything a good story needs; drama, passion and betrayal. The performances are sensational, and the film has you laughing and crying. it is subtitled, so if that kind of thing puts you off (it really shouldn’t), you have fair warning. But it’s on Netflix, so it’s definitely worth a try.

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