It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The principles of the Enlightenment, which would inspire the French Revolution, first took practical shape in Denmark in the 18th century. The books and ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau arrived there under the arm of Dr. Johann Struensee, a German physician who was hired to care for the young King Christian VII, and eventually took very good care indeed of his comely new queen from Britain, Queen Caroline Mathilde.
Their risky love affair and clandestine guidance of Danish politics provide rich material for "A Royal Affair," a big budget historical drama that carries Denmark's hopes into the Oscar season. It provides still more exposure for the rising Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, the latest male sex symbol of the art house crowd. He plays Struensee, a social reformer ahead of his time.
Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander) arrives in Denmark for a royal marriage, and discovers that the rumors she's heard about her intended husband, the king (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), are true. First seen by us hiding behind a tree and by her displaying an odd giggle, he's mentally deranged and infantile. After finding he doesn't much like marriage, he suddenly determines to make a grand tour of Europe, and the elders of the court hire Struensee to travel along and see what can be done with him.
Struensee finds him to be putty in his hands, easily influenced, and when they return to Copenhagen, with Caroline and a new royal infant, he stays on within the royal household. Denmark at the time was a place where rich aristocrats ruled and such reforms as orphanages seemed dangerously radical. Caroline, in love with Struensee, also falls in love with what the doctor tells her about Voltaire's politics, and she uses her influence with the king to change the nation's history.