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A Royal Affair/En kongelig affære

7/10

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Trine Dyrholm, David Dencik, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Thomas Gabrielsson, Cyron Melville, Bent Mejding, Harriet Walter, Laura Bro, Soren Malling

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

A naïve young woman marries a royal and is given a really bad time by royals and conniving courtiers. A skeletal storyline such as this sounds almost contemporary.

This fascinating drama, however, is fact based although, as with all ‘based on a real story’ movies, co-writer-director Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg could well have used their imaginations to ensure smooth storytelling. Their screenplay won a Silver Bear in Berlin.

The setting is 18th century Denmark where English princess Vikander (very good indeed) arrives to marry the King, impressively played to the amusing but ultimately scary hilt by Folsgaard, only to discover that he is crazy (he fawns over his dog but fails to welcome her to the court) and threatens her with “Don’t steal my light”.

A horrendous wedding night and virtual isolation follows, followed by an heir to the rage of Dowager Queen Dyrholm and Folsgaard’s corrupt tutor Dencik.

Unsurprisingly, she begins an affair with German doctor Mikkelsen who manages to control the King and becomes a power behind the throne. Then their affair is discovered with inevitably traumatic results for the couple - while Denmark, if the script is accurate, eventually came out better in the end because of their affair.

The film is strong, well told and beautifully staged, costumed and photographed. Czechoslovakia plays 18th century Denmark and does it convincingly.

While lightness is (logically) missing from essentially sad story, British audiences are in for an unexpected treat when Vikander greets the rain with “It reminds me of England”.

The performances are uniformly excellent, with Folsgaard deservedly winning a Best Actor award in Berlin.

Alan Frank

Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic/Germany 2011. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour.
137 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 14 Jun 2012