A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012): Denmark | Sweden | Czech Republic

Reviewed by China Rose.  Viewed at AFI Fest 2012.

Will someone please give our heroine Alicia Vikander the ingenue Du jour in A Royal Affair an academy award? I was enthralled and enchanted by this film and it was largely due to the queens stunning performances through out this historical story of love, ambition and hope.

A Royal Affair is a sub-titled film by Nikolaj Arcel and is a period piece in every sense of the word. This film is a single piece of art assembled with thousands of tiny intricate pieces of detailed information (music, staging, costumes, dialogue, sound and lighting) that are woven like a tapestry. Every frame is subtly and expertly edited to give the maximum in a storytelling arch, without taking more time than necessary -or getting muddled in too many other entanglements.

This film gets it’s jump start with a tone and pace (European verve) to stay ahead of it’s own game because it is focused with a strong gravitational pull on what tugs at our hearts strings. It’s a human story of trials and tribulations but never becomes a drag or downer.

This is Shakespeare In Love meets Elizabeth in the princess world of movie magic and queen for-a-day, making.  A full, feature length stunner, this film offers us a strong female lead. It delivers a heroine who endures and yes, at times goes berserk when needed, but never crumbles or flakes out. She is the clue in this watchful, artful and picturesque journey through another world in time and place.

In the end our darling heroine gets more and gives more than she ever expected. She is a young bride who willingly and unwittingly, married into a world of blood, guts and royal chaos in late 1700’s European history. Her Royal highness was cast between two talented and clever leading men who hold their own like a circus balancing act with a full-house of cards. The supporting cast and crew supplied endless character roles to fuel the Deus ex Machina of this fabled, legendary, real-life queen.

The costumes and authentic period backdrops depicted the time, the place and the situations as this film dictated but with a true depth of feeling for mores and rituals.  Period scene-ography dominated and was visually remarkable and award worthy!! The lighting was sometimes naturalistic and at other times heightened as needed to establish shots and give effects. Lighting was subtle and not pervasive, each frame appeared seamlessly woven to maintain a feel for the olde days of lore.

Hail, hail, this film wins big in so many ways for me, it’s epic in it’s scope and scale and it’s noble in it’s earthly, personal, grandeur. The sets are lush, seductive and hauntingly, poetic. The camera’s lens was ever vigilant to depict the mood through close-ups and wide masters of the settings with weight given to the emotional content of each scene. Even when the Queen’s lover, father of her unborn child, best friend of the king and doctor loses his head on the chopping block we had a sense of where and when to cling to.

The exquisitely staged and arranged acting blended into the scenery with perfection. With a strong female lead, this film is fully inspired. It was also vulnerable, impetuous and everything the heroine in this film exhibited, charm, grace, naivete and remorse for unintended consequences.

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