F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 24, 2016)

24 03 2016

A Royal AffairI’ve been pressed (in person) by two loyal readers who want to know the rationale behind my aversion to period pieces, in particular the so-called “costume drama.” I do try to elucidate when I hold an entire genre or subgenre in contempt – see my pans of “The Young Victoria” and “The Invisible Woman” as well as my praises for “Mr. Turner” and “Far from the Madding Crowd” for examples.

It essentially boils down to this: save your threads for the museums and the palaces. If you have something to say about the past that has some relevance to contemporary society, then tell your story as extravagantly as you like. Nikolaj Arcel’s “A Royal Affair,” which depicts the painful struggle to enlighten Denmark, is such a film with real heft for modern times. As such, I am happy to name this lavish costume drama my “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Prior to Alicia Vikander winning the Oscar, and being in every other movie you see, she starred here as British royal Caroline Matilda, who gets unceremoniously married off to Danish king Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard). Once she produces an heir to secure the political bond between the two nations, Caroline mentally checks out in their marriage having fulfilled her duties. It’s not like she gets anything in return from the mentally unstable – and actually, quite disturbed – Christian.

Enter Mads Mikkelsen’s Johann Friedrich Struensee, originally brought in as a personal physician to Christian but ultimately a man of much greater influence. A disciple of Rousseau, his reason and rationality begins to inspire Christian to pass progressive reforms in his own country. Struensee also finds a captive audience for his learned views in Caroline, who is also in need of romantic and sexual fulfillment. The resulting fracas that plays out in “A Royal Affair” feels entirely relevant as, sadly enough, governments still reject common sense legislation and subjugate (or at least fail to prioritize) the needs of women. So, indeed, I found a reason to care about these people in lush wardrobes. Our struggles are still theirs.



One response

18 09 2016

Just watched this… Up there with Far From the Madding Crowd for its period drama brilliance… Thanks for the summary review!

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