Justifying A ROYAL AFFAIR
Dr. Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) didn’t bother to wear a costume or even a mask at the much-awaited royal masquerade ball. It wasn’t something that interested him, but he knew he’d see her there. Queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) captivated him in a way that no one else has. They shared a love for the philosophers and thinkers of the era. Her youthful countenance came alive whenever she’d see him. She couldn’t help but tease, “Your costume it’s not very imaginative.” The dance was the only physical contact they’ve had since meeting. Their hands touching, their faces, lips inches away. At the end of the dance, Johann literally ran away from her trying to control passions ignited within.
A ROYAL AFFAIR of Denmark is just one of 21 films you can catch for free at Cine Europa 16 in Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall. The film fest will run from September 5 to 14 at the Shang Cineplex Premiere Theatres and proceed to Cinematheque Baguio City (September 17-22 ), Cinematheque Iloilo City (September 23 -29), Ayala Center, Cebu City (October 4 -6), Liceo de Cagayan University (October 10-13) and Cinematheque Davao City (October 15-20).
Mads Mikkelsen as Dr Struensee is the biggest talent from Denmark, having starred as the 007 villain Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE (2006) and CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010). Now he is the lead star in the hit TV series HANNIBAL, shown in the Philippines through AXN. Queen Caroline Mathilde played by Alicia Vikander, started her acting career very young in Sweden but is most recently seen in the critically acclaimed ANNA KARENINA, starring Keira Knightley, which was shown exclusively in Resort’s World Manila, Eastwood Mall and Lucky Chinatown Mall.
On the surface A ROYAL AFFAIR seems to be similar with ANNA KARENINA concerning extramarital relationships by the aristocracy. In reality they’re worlds apart. A ROYAL AFFAIR is far more politicized, while ANNA KARENINA is very visual, dealt with the personal tragedy of a scandalous affair, here the stakes are higher. Their relationship influenced how a nation was ruled and in some respects influenced the whole of Europe.
For any viewer who appreciates history, the decadence of the 18th century monarchs, ROYAL AFFAIR is a must see. The film is a great insight as how a romance was able to change people’s way of thinking in politics and philosophy.
Johann Friedrich Struensee was not particularly charming or good looking. He was an intellectual who wanted to contribute to society. As a doctor he devoted himself to caring for needy patients. Appointed as the King’s physician he became more like a glorified home boy (barkada). He was the ultimate wingman. Everything changed when he met her. Theirs was more a meeting of the minds.
The Age of Enlightenment bore the greatest political thinkers of Europe. Centuries of suffering in a feudalistic society made these minds search for a more just and equitable form of government. A vast majority of people lived in poverty and servitude to royalty and the noble class. “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains.” Queen Mathilde quotes Jean Jacques Rousseau to Johann, they also both admired Voltaire and Locke.
The mere possession of these books was considered an act of treason in 1737. Not just in Denmark but most of Europe, which were ruled by monarchs. Johann under a pseudonym had written and published his thoughts on political reform, freeing the serfs from a lifetime of what we now define as slavery. He sent these papers to the Queen as a love letter tied with a red bow.
Christian VII played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, was touted to be a Mad King although he was never despotic. By modern standards he could easily be diagnosed with several and fairly common disorders such as bi-polar, Asperger’s syndrome. Mostly Christian could also be perceived as any young royal of today. He’s just out to have a good time, skirting his official responsibilities of governing by touring Europe, going to the Opera and theater. He was also known to frequent brothels and get drunk in dinners and parties.
Queen Mathilde was educated in England, fluent in German, French, English and Danish. She’s an accomplished pianist and singer. Their marriage however was more out of filial duty than any common bond or romance. One could also make the argument that the King was far closer and had a deeper relationship with Dr. Strunsee because of their shared admiration for Shakespeare. Johann had this ability of controlling the King’s unreasonable or ‘mad’ behavior not by admonishing but through reverse psychology and simply by being a real friend to him.
Johann’s bond and closeness with the King is the opportunity that Queen Mathilde suggested they use to institute real reforms in changing people’s lives for the better. Denmark became the light of Europe in having a more just and equitable society. Voltaire himself, wrote to the King in admiration for the reforms they have made. Both the King and Queen fell in love with this seemingly plain doctor from Germany. With nobility eschewing reform, their love can easily turn to scandal and pain.