Title: A Royal Affair
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard
The official Danish Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry, “A Royal Affair” charts the story of a passionate and forbidden love triangle that has consequences for an entire nation. Gorgeously photographed if familiarly constructed, the film is more or less catnip for urban foreign film aficionados and the NPR set, breathing life into period piece lust and intrigue, and in the process destabilizing stuffy notions of what monarchial drama entails.
Based on a novel by Bodil Steensen-Leth, the film unfolds in the 1760s, telling the story of Queen Caroline Mathilda (the lovely Alicia Vikander, of the forthcoming “Anna Karenina”), a young but cultured free thinker who finds herself caught between her new husband, Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) and Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), a man of idealism and enlightenment. Johann becomes the king’s personal physician, and finds his himself drawn to Caroline — and she to him. Naturally, rivalries, adultery and deceit ensue — all rooted in fact.
“A Royal Affair,” which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, unfolds in ribbons of traditional, melodramatic plotting, and is certainly a bit too long. At over two hours and 15 minutes, it could use a smart editorial trim from a party or parties divorced from the sleepier rhythms of its source material. What most recommends it are the performances and its telling. The nubile Vikander has a luminescent quality and charm, and Mikkelsen — probably best known to Stateside audiences as the villain from “Casino Royale” — has a clenched charisma that conveys his inner conflict without telegraphing it.
Cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek makes superb use of natural light, and the movie’s blue-grey color palette, overseen by director Nikolaj Arcel, rather wonderfully complements the soupier qualities of the narrative, in which authority and uncertainty are artfully blended together.
NOTE: For more information, visit www.MagPictures.com/ARoyalAffair/.
Written by: Brent Simon