A Royal Affair: Pawn Takes Queen

A Royal Affair posterObjectively, Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair tells a fascinating tale of palace intrigue, the birth of the Enlightenment, treachery, insanity, and illicit sex. These are all things that I enjoy watching. I also enjoy watching beautifully constructed shots filled with shadowy blues and flickering fire. Fine acting—such as the potent type exhibited by Mads Mikkelsen—pleases me as well.

But I didn’t engage with A Royal Affair. As I sat watching it, appreciating it, I found my mind drifting to other things. Errands to run. The slow, inexorable passage of time.

So subjectively, A Royal Affair‘s tale wasn’t fascinating. This surprises me because when I try to explain what the film is about, it sounds fantastic. Positively brimming with slurpy, greedy, goodness.

A Royal Affair secretive sex

Let me hear your bawdy talk, bawdy talk, bawdy talk. Let’s get physical.

Mads Mikkelsen plays small town physician Doctor Struensee, a secret supporter of the Enlightenment which is slowly raising eyebrows across Europe. Meanwhile, Alice Vikander’s Catherine Mathilde, an English royal, is married off to the nutsy-cuckoo Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard), King of Denmark. Through political maneuvering, Dr. Struensee becomes personal physician and only real confidant to the King, who, remember, is batshit loony.

A Royal Affair Christian VII

I’m not mad. I’m just drawn that way.

The Doc slowly coaxes Christian into a pliable state and usurps his power. More or less all of it—his kingly command and his marital duties vis-a-vis the minxy Catherine. And what does he do with this power? He shoves Denmark into the vanguard of the Enlightenment.

A Royal Affair isn’t a happy story, though. Doing good (not well, good) is no guarantee of entry to heaven, as our historical characters discover.

In the end, while I empathized with the motivations of the characters, I didn’t care. Would Dr. Struensee escape retribution? Would the Queen find her elusive happiness? Would Denmark lead the world into a new age of human rights? Would the King look good in a flaming banana costume?

A Royal Affair

We demand more speaking roles! Also a muffin, please.

Would the film end?

I am happy to say the film did end. It was a good film that I didn’t like, so I was glad to see the credits roll. The clash between my objective assessment and my subjective interest continues to grumble on, though.

I suppose in the end all I can say is that if you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this sort of thing. Or at least more than I did.

2 responses on “A Royal Affair: Pawn Takes Queen

  1. Intriguing review! I sympathize with your ambivalence where you politely wait for a decently constructed film to conclude. It’s kind of like dating someone that you think you should be crazy about but you’re not.

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