I'm willing to bet that in the near future, we see Nikolaj Arcel's 'A Royal Affair' hit the Criterion Collection. It's that good. If you remember from a few weeks ago, it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. This is based on a true story, and after watching the extras, and doing a little research on the production, it seems that Arcel went to great lengths to recreate the incidents and scenarios that took place in the 1770s, so much so that it has garnered international attention.
The movie itself is stunningly beautiful and reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' in terms of the camerawork and the amount of detail on display. The film starts off with the english princess Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) who arrives in Denmark to marry King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard). Upon her arrival, Caroline realizes that her life is about to turn upside down as her books and literature are immediately confiscated by order of the King.
Not having spent much time with her new King, she discovers that he is suffering from a harsh mental illness, one that causes a person lose all grips on reality. The King makes some wild statements in front of his doctors and admits to some very unorthodox feelings. Caroline soon figures out that the King's cabinet of advisors are perfectly aware of and okay with Christian's behavior, as they can control him and pursue their own agenda, which is very strict, conservative, abrasive.
A german doctor by the name of Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen, the bad guy from 'Casino Royale') is told by some of his friends about the insanity of the King as they urge him to journey to the Royal Palace and become his personal doctor. As Struensee has a grasp on what's going on, he agrees to this task on the thought that he might have an "in" to get the King to sign off on his beliefs and principles, which involve the ways of The Enlightenment.
Christian instantly likes Struensee and the two begin to spend much of their time together talking about various subjects. Meanwhile, Caroline also takes a liking to Struensee, but this kind is of the romantic persuasion, and the two have a true love affair as the King is off visiting various brothels. After a while, Christian begins taking the advice of Struensee and starts changing the laws of Denmark to more liberal ones, thus creating a revolution in Europe. However, Caroline and Struensee make an epic mistake that unravels everything they have worked for.
Back then, this idea of the Enlightenment was heavily opposed by Denmark's leaders, who did everything they could to stop it's believers and culture. As this movie portrays the real events that took place, it's insane to think that so much was accomplished under much scrutiny and very unusual circumstances. The detail that went into making this film, from the costumes, to the sets, to the dialogue. Everything was made to recreate what actually happened.
Mikkelsen deserves an acting award for his portrayal of Struensee. He brings so much charisma to his role that you just fall in love with him the instant you see him on screen. He needs to be in more films in the coming years. Vikander and Folsgaard also turn in solid performances as royalty, but Mikkelsen steals every scene. The score by Gabriel Yared is beautiful and adds an emotional depth to the story. 'A Royal Affair' is required viewing, not only for it to tell an amazing and truly bizarre story, but to give a little historical insight into Denmark. It's definitely one of the better films of recent years.
'A Royal Affair' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is such a beautifully shot film, that one can only hope that it's mastering was equally as good. I'm happy to say that it is. The detail is phenomenal as we can see every tiny design on the costumes and backgrounds. The colors are vibrant, with tons of greens and blues. These colors definitely shine in the exterior scenes, which also gives the image great depth. The black levels run deep and inky with the flesh tones looking natural and smooth. There was no aliasing, edge enhancement, banding, or dirt on this that I noticed. This is a top notch video presentation.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in Danish with English subtitles. The dialogue is crystal clear and very easy to understand if you know Danish. There were no cracks or pops anywhere to hear. The ambient noises of people chattering, and nature was well rounded and flowed from the surrounds nicely. It gave a bit of depth to the sound. The directionality here as well as the dynamics were also top notch. The score provided a luxurious sound that could sweep you off your feet, and yet never drowned out any dialogue. This is really a great audio presentation.
Nikolaj Arcel's 'A Royal Affair is a must see. It features some of the most beautiful filmmaking in a long, long time, and Mads Mikkelsen gives one hell of a performance. The video and audio are top notch here, and while the extras are sub-par, the interviews were decent enough. Quickly, add this to your collection. It's an incredible film. Highly recommended.