“A Royal Affair” Is
Sex and Madness
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Crazy kings -- it’s a historical fact. There have been quite a few.
Some of my favorite Mad Monarchs include:
· Charles VI “The Mad” of France (1368-1422) - The King who became a murdering madman.
· “Mad King” George III of Great Britain (1738-1820) - The King in the straightjacket.
· Gaius “Caligula” of Rome (12-31) - The schizophrenic Emperor with a bad temper.
· Gian Gastone de Medici of Tuscany (1671-1737) - The Grand Duke who refused to leave his bed.
· Ivan IV “The Terrible” of Russia (1530-1584) - The Tsar who was a rapist and mass murderer.
· “Mad” Ibrahim I of Turkey (1616-1648) - The Sultan who drowned his entire harem.
· Nabonidus of Babylon (539 BC) - The King who ate grass and imagined he was a goat.
Now I can add the mentally ill King Christain VII of Denmark to that list. He’s the subject (kinda) of a new film called “En kongelig affære” (better known on American circuits as “A Royal Affair”). It’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema.
“A Royal Affair” stars Mikkel Følsgaard (TV’s “Those Who Kill”) as Mad King Christian VII. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander (“Anna Karenina”) takes on the role of Caroline Matilda, the member of the British royal family who became Queen of Denmark and Norway. And Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”) portrays Johann Friedrich Struensee, the German doctor who became royal physician to the king -- and de facto regent for the country.
This epic historical drama covers the doctor’s affair with the queen. And the revolution that swelled up in 18th-Century Scandinavia. Ironically, the affair occurs between Struensee and the queen just as his bond with the king is strengthening. As we discover, “Christian cares more for Struensee than for his wife Caroline,” says co-star Mads Mikkelsen. “That’s the strongest part of the film.”
Danish Director Nikolaj Arcel, (best known as the original screenwriter of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) tackles this true story like a tragic romance. “Outside of Denmark nobody really knew about this story until now,” he tells us. “But it’s very famous in Denmark. It’s one of the most-famous true stories that we have, historically. But if you go across the border into Germany, for instance, nobody knows about it. So it was our little secret.”
“It’s a part of our history,” explains Mads Mikkelsen, who plays the doctor. “We know the king was crazy and my character shagged the queen.”
Nikolaj Arcel describes the film as “not only a historical lesson, but it’s a love story, it’s a love triangle.”
“The young princess who’s coming to Denmark and marrying the insane king, and the doctor who comes to town and essentially becomes the king, there’s a lot of great character studies in that. I think that’s the way to avoid it being like a stuffy period piece,” he says.
“You have great passion,” echoes Mikkelsen. “People taking over a country, there are executions—and hopefully people will believe it, because it’s all true.”
Nikolaj Arcel expects his subtitled film “En kongelig affære” will give American moviegoers a whole new perspective on Denmark. “People almost view Denmark like this little happy place, where everybody is happy, it’s the most-progressive country in the world, things like that. And then you see the complexities….”