How “Zero Dark Thirty” ruined me for “A Royal Affair” (2012)
15 January 2013
Could I be any less inspired to write this? Reason being that I watched this film within about 60 hours of seeing the amazing Zero Dark Thirty, which makes other films look lite.
A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) is the Danish nominee for Best Foreign Film this year and should have Feminéma written all over it: a period drama! featuring Mads Mikkelsen! set during the Enlightenment! Oh, if only I could muster the enthusiasm.
It focuses on King Christian VII’s new English bride, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander, above), who arrives pre-married in a country she’s never seen before only to find her new husband to be simple-minded and easily manipulated by various handlers. She has an affair with the German doctor brought in to manage the king’s mood swings and erratic behavior. This doctor is a freethinker named Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mikkelsen) who sneaks in many of the radical French enlightenment texts banned from Denmark at the time, texts the new queen had taken pleasure reading while growing up in England. Inspired by high-minded ideals as much as by one another’s hotness, Caroline Mathilde and Struensee conspire to subvert the highly conservative Court and institute for the first time free speech, democratic protections of rights, access to education, universal access to smallpox inoculations, and benefits to the poor.
Was it that the genre-busting Zero Dark Thirty had ruined me for film? Or is A Royal Affair a highly romanticized, predictable piece of fluff — with only the extra layer of Enlightenment-era rights talk to give it a bit of fiber? I’d like to be generous, but I’m inclined to think that this is not worth the time and money when theaters are so crowded with great, Oscar-worthy films.
I’m still working on seeing the other Best Foreign Film nominees, of course. Everything seems to indicate that Michael Haneke’s Amour will be tough competition. Even acknowledging that I was in no shape to see such a film, I still maintain that this one is not a contender.
You will, of course, be forgiven if you want to spend $11 just to see Mikkelsen’s mouth and those haunted eyes for more than two hours, and the rest of him donned in eighteenth-century clothes — which he must shed for key scenes. Not to mention Vikander’s clothes and her perfect complexion.
Apparently critic Mark Kermode named this the best film of 2012. I do not understand how this can be the case, but hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions.