movie: A Royal Affair

Late Friday afternoon Mark Kermode blogged about this film, a quick check of the GFT web site I found it was showing just after 5.  From there it wasn’t a difficult decision since D is away for the weekend and this being a Danish period costume drama with subtitles, I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t have been interested.  But I will give most things at the GFT a try and if Kermode recommends it then why not?

Watching a movie I knew very little about before sitting down was unusual, but I enjoyed having no idea what was going to happen next or what direction it was going in.  It was only afterwards that I discovered this is a true story of the mentally troubled King Christian VII in 18th century Denmark who is manipulated and side-lined by his government.  Then the physician Johann Struensee uses his close relationship with the King to implement his own ideas of the emerging enlightenment making liberal reforms and implementing vast social changed, whilst falling in love and having an affair with the Queen.

There is no question that this is a beautifully shot film and while watching it I was completely engrossed in the period without it feeling too much like the costume drama that it obviously is.  The camera direction is subtly modern in style that you don’t normally see in such films and showing glimpses of peasant life clashing with the aristocracy again made the story feel very grounded in reality.  My only quibble would be that at 2hours 17min it was just a little bit too long and I found myself fidgeting to get comfortable by the end.

Whilst at one level this is a love triangle, it is also a political drama, a story of social upheaval, censorship and a bro-mance.  OK, there are no giant fighting robots or exploding helicopters in this film, but it is a truly stunning movie and as Mark Kermode said “if a Royal Affair isn’t in my top 10 at the end of this year, then it will have been a fantastic year.”


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