Director: Nikolaj Arcel
MPAA Rating: R
When one goes to see a film about an extramarital affair it’s not beyond reason to pretty much anticipate what you’ll see. They meet. They fall in lust. They are discovered. Finally, the resolution and/or comeuppance. Pretty standard fare. A Royal Affair is a very complex affair. Sure you get what I mentioned but there is so much more to this film then the affair alone. The film is a romance. A political thriller. A historical drama. A biopic. A tragedy.
The film is based on the affair that could have toppled a nation but ultimately ended up saving it. In the late 1700s, the queen of Denmark has an affair with the King’s doctor and confidant. The affair that started based in love soon evolves into an opportunity to help improve the nation. Things begin to grow far more complex when everyone becomes a pawn in a class war between the haves and have-nots.
This had the makings of a solid drama but it was incredibly slow, at 137 minutes you certainly felt it, melodramatic and clichéd. As presented the affair itself was rather pedestrian. I simply wasn’t buying the chemistry between the Queen and the good doctor as portrayed by Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen. I was most interested in the political backstabbing and manipulation that permeates most of the film but it really laid it on pretty thick when it wants you to know just who the “bad” guys are. The real problem is there is no one in the film you can truly get behind. Every character’s ulterior motives, whether their intentions are good or not, just makes everyone rather unsavory. You have an ineffective King, a cheating couple, a friend taking advantage of another, a council whose only interested in their needs, revolutionaries who are really only interested in what they need, why should you care? I guess the movie really is about what lengths people are willing to go to get what they want. In the end, and I literally mean the end, characters appear that you can really support but by then the movie is over and all you get is a closing post script.
I don’t know just how factual the film is but it’s unfortunate that it had to be presented so melodramatically. Uniformly the performances are good with Mikkel Boe Følsgaard standing out as King Christian VII. It is well photographed and directed. The film’s problems rest in the screenplay written by Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel based on the novel “Prinsesse af blodet” by Bodil Steensen-Leth. Too much going on, kinda rushed but still incredibly slow. I’m thinking that perhaps this would have been better suited as a mini-series as opposed to cramming all this history into a couple hours. At least there the story could be fleshed out and if you find yourself getting bored you can take a break.
This film was nominated for Best Foreign language film, I really don’t know why.