‘A Royal Affair’ review. 3 stars.

Mads Mikkelsen’s career has reached an apex in the last 12 months.  In May of 2012 he won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance in The Hunt.
Most recently he has been announced for the role of Hannibal Lecter in the television series Hannibal.
The film he completed before The Hunt was A Royal Affair, where he is one of the three main characters.  His performance is the strongest of the three, although Alicia Vikander’s characterisation of the Queen who is mistreated poorly by the King is quite strong.

It is a film which resembles many that have gone before.  The crazy eccentric king (think ‘Madness of King George’) , who treats his queen as nothing more than someone who can father his child (shades of ‘The Tudors’).   It seems that the only person who can really understand and even control the king, is a mere physician from the local town (Mads Mikkelsen).

A Royal Affair centres around the poor decisions of those with power.  Both the mental and physical weaknesses that cloud their day to day judgements.  A strength of the film is the (all but one) unknown cast.    Filmed in Denmark, and containing multiple languages and subtitles it’s easy to find yourself questioning the motives of the king, his queen and the physician.  Haven’t any of them learnt from all previous historical dramas!  It can only end in trouble.

Surprisingly, it was the performance of Mikkel Boe Følsgaard , as King Christian VII, that took home the Berlin Film Festival ‘Silver Bear Award’ for Best Actor earlier this year.  It wasn’t a performance that I liked.  His interpretation of the mentally unstable king was too over the top, seemed almost unbelievable at times.   Others however may find it was just the right pitch (after all I didn’t mind Keira Knightley’s ‘unstable’ performance in A Dangerous Mind, which many people disliked).

I almost found the film implausible.  But some investigating uncovered that yes, all these characters were real, and yes what happens is real.  Which makes A Royal Affair even more fascinating.  It surprised me to read that there has only been one real attempt to bring this story to screen before – the 1935 film The Dictator starring Madeline Carroll-  because it has many ingredients of intrigue, love, lust and secrets that play perfect to a modern day audience.

A Royal Affair is a strong historical drama, with a captivating lead performance by Mads Mikkelsen, which makes you wonder just how royalty managed to reign supreme in the 1700s.

Score:  3 / 5

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