A Royal Affair / En kongelig affære (2012) – Denmark

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 13 June 2012
DVD Review: 9 November 2012
Released by Madman Entertainment on DVD and Blu-Ray

Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as the mad King of Denmark, may not have been given the title role, but he oozes with scene stealing presence in almost every scene he appears. In saying that Danish historical drama “A Royal Affair” is purely carried by Mikkel is by no means an understatement. In fact, the film is rather disappointing with all characters rather blend and uninspiring, apart from the King. Director Nikolaj Arcel (writer of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”) is clearly a much better script writer than at bringing the picture to life. “A Royal Affair” could have been something enormous, but rather it all seemed too much like clichés, too many boredom moments and some rather predictable acting from Mads Mikkelsen as the Royal doctor. I am by no means an expert in Danish cinema, but despite looking wonderfully detail in its depiction of 1700s life, the film lacks a vital ingredient of having a heart. There is no doubt that “Royal” is not a bad film and will never be, but one cannot stop wondering what could’ve been and once again the case of a missed opportunity.

As mentioned earlier, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard steals the show from far more acclaimed Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”‘s fame) and the Queen played by rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander. Mikkel is able to bring his mad character to life and more importantly a human naturalistic touch to it as well. It is a vital stranglehold that the film ultimately fails miserably at. In saying so, Mads Mikkelsen is extremely disappointing in a role that requires so much more. His stoic outlook and appearance certainly did not help the cause, but what really led him down is his inability to show the conflict between love, power and ideals that his character and the audience needed from him. Although it must be noted that despite the age difference, there is an underlying chemistry between him and Alicia Vikander. Moving on to Vikander, there is no question of her pretty face, but despite a promising start, she is never sure of the character that she is trying so hard to portray. At the end, the audience does not feel for either Vikander and Mikkelsen and while both actors should be blamed, a burden should be attributed to the director Arcel, by not being able to exploit the most at his disposals.

“A Royal Affair” is really a historical film about a time in the late 1700s when people are starting to challenge the status quo, the introduction of science, questioning of the Church and all of these leading to the times of being in the middle of the age of enlightenment. The famous Royal doctor Johan Struensee is being portrayed as a simple and straightforward idealist guy that bedded a Queen, but rather he is an interesting character that is driven with passion and ideal to change the world and in the midst of things got stuck in an affair with the Queen. However, he is nothing, but a simple character, as he is torn between assuming more and more power as well as his personal drive for ideals. Here, all we see is a simple black and white character where by the end of the film, he seemed more like a villain than a complicated yet flawed character he should have been.

All in all, “A Royal Affair” is really a missed opportunity. Although it must be admitted, that the screenplay and the best actor award seems thoroughly deserving in winning the Berlin Film Festival awards, but the film precisely fails to deliver in every other category. The film is also a tact too slow in the beginning and lacks tension even in the rather frequent sexual Royal affair. Luckily, the film is saved by the wonderful Mikkel Boe Følsgaard whose character despite being the least normal of the trio, stand heads and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. Perhaps the film-maker was right to focus on the pair of scandalous lovers, after all the film name is titled after it. Still, this could easily be a far better film, far better acted and far more deep and meaning. Perhaps, I am being a tact too harsh, but the result of “A Royal Affair” is not that it is a bad film, but rather it is far too average, far too normal and far too predictable to be involving and affecting. I should be crying by the end of the film, but instead, I almost felt nothing. Beautiful to look at, but ultimately I felt nothing…

I rate it 6/10

Special Features:
Interviews with director Nicolaj Arcel and stars Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander
Picture gallery with character biographies
Family tree, illustrating the links between the Danish and British royal families
Theatrical trailer

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