Enfilade

Film | A Royal Affair

Posted in films by Editor on June 5, 2012

Inspired by, though not based upon, Per Olov Enquist’s 1999 novel The Visit of the Royal Physician, A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) brings the eighteenth-century Danish court to cinema screens this summer. As noted at Screen Daily (19 May 2011), much of this $8million film was shot in the Czech Republic. For more information, consult the film’s website.

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Winner of the Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and written and directed by Nikolaj Arcel (co-writer of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), A Royal Affair is an epic tale of a passionate and forbidden romance that changed an entire nation.

Denmark, 1766, and Caroline Mathilde is married to the mad and politically ineffectual King Christian VII. Ignored by the wild King who chooses to live scandalously, Caroline grows accustomed to a quiet existence in oppressed Copenhagen. When the King returns from a tour of Europe accompanied by Struensee, his new personal physician, Queen Caroline finds an unexpected ally within the kingdom. The attraction between the two is initially one of shared ideals and philosophy, but it soon turns into a passionate and clandestine affair.

Committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment that are banned in Denmark, Struensee convinces the King to assert his previously untapped power to remove the conservative political council and implement drastic changes to Danish society. As the Court plot their return to power and the downfall of the Queen and Struensee, the consequences of their affair are made clear and the entire nation will be changed forever.

Director’s Statement

A Royal Affair is based on one of the most dramatic events in Danish and indeed European history; whenever I used to pitch the film to foreign investors, people had a hard time believing that the story was true, that these momentous events had actually happened in the late 1700s. In Denmark however, it is taught in school, more than 15 books have been written about it (both factual and fictional) and there has even been an opera and a ballet. I feel honored and extremely lucky to finally bring the full story to the screen.

Tonally, I was inspired by the great epics from the 40s and 50s where films would often feel like literary works, structured around characters and the passage of time, and not clearly following the obvious screenplay roadmaps. But my creative team and I were also fired up by the idea of bringing the Scandinavian historical drama into the new century. We wanted to achieve this by adhering to a self imposed rule; we didn’t want to ‘show’ history, didn’t want to dwell pointlessly on the big official events, the fancy dresses and hairdos, or the way the food was served.

Rather, we wanted people to simply experience the story through the eyes of the characters, taking the 1760s for granted. Even though the period is obviously there in the set designs, the costumes (Mikkel Foelsgaard who plays King Christian still insists our tagline should have been ‘Big emotions, Big wigs’), it was filmed and edited as we would have filmed and edited a film taking place in modern Copenhagen.

Finally, Gabriel Yared and Cyrille Aufort’s beautiful score has brought the film full circle, and home to its epic roots.

— Nikolaj Arcel

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