Friday, May 17, 2013

A Royal Affair Reminds Us That Romance Is Indeed Dead

American poster for the film
 I seriously cannot believe it's taken me so long to watch A Royal Affair (2012) but it's been sitting quietly in my Netflix queue until the other day when I was driving up Sunset Blvd. and saw Madds Mikkelsen in a very ill-fitting pair of suede pants (yes, suede in May) walking down the street towards The Coffee Bean. I've heard pieces about it here and there, most of them good, but no one saying it's pretty damn close to a perfect movie, which it completely is. 
An affair begins in shadows. How's that for pretentious?
It is a Danish historical drama that made the rounds at some important festivals last year and even landed a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at last years Oscars, shamefully it didn't win.
It tells the true story of a British princess betrothed to a psychotic and somewhat slow-in-the-head Danish king and is forced to relinquish all over her customs, language, and family and move to Denmark to begin a bizarre life with a bizarre man. Although The Princess Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) is unbelievably beautiful, like right out of a Botticelli painting beautiful,  the king does not enjoy 'visiting her bed chamber' if ya know what I mean, because he'd rather get wasty-pants and do it with some nasty hooker, his seriously. But it's in Danish so it doesn't sound so trashy. 
The requisite naked-in-a-copper-bathtub scene, every period piece has one, it's in the rule books somewhere.
Time passes, and the king (Mikkel Følsgaard) grows more more and more despondent and insane due to what his trusted advisers believe to be 'excessive masturbation', so they audition doctors from far and wide to be the king's personal physician. Out of the few that make the rounds is a strangely attractive and mysterious small-town idealist and cheerleader for the incoming Enlightenment movement of Rousseau, Voltaire, and John Locke (and others that character names from Lost were based on) doctor named Johann Struensee (Madds Mikkelsen). It's beyond obvious that sooner or later this young impressionable now-queen and idealist doctor will begin a passionate love affair as she has a secret gateway to her bed chamber, and no that's not code for anything, that's actually in the film. I mean, he's the only one who doesn't wear powdered wigs and rouge, with those ridiculous white silk stalkings they thought looked so fly back in the 18th century. 
Madds has that rugged primal manliness...thing that you just can't put your finger on, you just know it's there, although you'd like to put your finger on it.
It's a bit obvious the queen is in need of some real man-lovin' and he's more than obliged to give it to her, but you know what? They end up falling in love, and everything falls apart as it does when love gets in the way of really steamy caressing and intercourse set to classical music. But as a historical drama it works brilliantly. It tells the actual love story and the tragedy of it, although totally inevitably, in such a passionate way that you still fall for it, and by the end of it are wiping away tears saying how you would totally give up all your worldly possessions and live in exile as she's eventually forced to if you could have a love affair like that, but you won't because it's 2013, and shit like internet dating exists. 
I swear 18th century costumes make any plot line sexier. That's also on the books.
It's brilliantly shot, and executed, and as a film is almost pitch perfect in narrative, aesthetic, and every other possible detail. Every time I see a costume that astounds me I immediately thought 'take that Sofia Coppola!' and that's always a good thing. This is a film that gets it right, and really reminds us that true love and romance did in fact exist at one point, where people sacrificed everything for it, and it's not like Grey's Anatomy at all out there, you just would have had to have lived 200 years ago, when there was no indoor plumbing. So you take the good with the bad. But seriously, watch this film. It's streaming on Netflix. I don't want any excuses.

Trailer below: 

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