A Royal Affair
A skillfully delivered but coldly aloof period drama from the Swedish Dragon Tattoo team
Reuniting the writing team behind the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, A Royal Affair is a welcome break from the current plethora of morbid Scandinavian thrillers; instead, Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel have co-adapted an unfamiliar but well documented true story of 18th century Danish royalty.
Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Valhalla Rising) brings his charm to bear as Johann Struensee, a German who becomes personal physician and best friend to Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard). Christian is unhappily married to British Queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), who enjoys cavorting between the sheets with Struensee. The German uses his courtly position to manipulate the king into pushing through much-needed political reforms, but eventually rumours of the queen’s infidelity cause the tide of public opinion to turn against them all.
A Royal Affair’s enjoyably literate script makes reference to many Enlightenment writers, as well as regular allusions to Hamlet, and it’s clear that Arcel has the skill to deliver a visually austere drama. But chemistry is what’s missing here; the cold aloofness and mismatched quality of A Royal Affair’s cast never suggests the burning passions required.