A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012) is a story of doomed love that works with a glass of wine and a tissue box. Second, it's a true tale from Denmark that oddly creates context for our own American Revolution. A.O Scott, The New York Times movie critic, rightly called it an "advanced placement bodice-ripper" for its entertaining and useful blend of romance, scandal, and history. Evidently based on both the 1999 book, "The Royal Physician's Visit," by Per Olov Enquist, and "Prinsesse af blodet," an erotic novel by Bodil Steensen-Leth, the film was directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel (shown below), nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and won a Golden Globe in 2013. It streams on Netflix.
Denmark in the early 1700's is run by Catholic dogmatists out of step with political change -- their Denmark, they believe, is the last decent outpost in a depraved Europe. The conser-vative privy council is in league with Dowager Queen Juliane Marie, pious stepmother of the infantile, mentally ill young King Christian VII, whom Juliane hopes to replace with her own son. The council runs the country coaxing Christian to sign its decrees. An arrange-ment is made with King George III of England to marry off his 15-year-old sister to Christian. (Yes -- the same King George who taxed our colonies into revolution).
Alicia Vikander (Kitty in Anna Karenina ), British Princess Caroline Mathilde sets foot on her new homeland as a hopeful bride to discover that her spouse is infantile and very unpleasant husband material. They have a son, Frederik, and soon the council hires a doctor to treat Christian who wallows in brothels and makes a spectacle of himself in public.(Two modern theories of his condition are schizophrenia and Porphyria. In this telling, it looked to me more like bi-polar illness combined with mental retardation.)
Mads Mikkelsen, shown above, right, and below, left), brought with him from Europe the Enlightenment era writings of Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. To describe Struensee in our own terms, he believed in the 99% rather than the top 1%. He could have been John Adams who famously said "Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write." (Adams and the German doctor were born two years apart.) Before his Danish assignment, 'free-thinker' Struensee wrote papers on issues of freedom and individual human rights.
Struensee's child) and the Doctor ("the foreigner") for Christian's interference in state business. They attempt to have Struensee arrested, but Christian by now differentiates bad government from good. He dismisses the entire council and installs the doctor as his chief and only minister. Struensee's tenure was under two years, but it jump-started backward Denmark by abolishing corporal punishment and torture of prisoners, ending capital punishment for theft, permitting freedom of the press, reducing revenues to nobility, banning slave trade, et al. Minister Guldberg says to Struensee, "You are destroying my country," to which the doctor replies, "Who is destroying the country: the King, or someone who believes the earth was created in six days?"
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (shown above and below) as young King Christian VII, for which he won a best actor award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2012. Følsgaard creates a believable portrait of a mentally ill child-man unable to function as an adult while having innate sense. He is sympathetic as he vacillates between infantile and courageous acts, blossoming under the intelligent caring of his wife and doctor.