A Royal Affair [Blu-Ray] Nicolaj Arcel

A Royal Affair [Blu-Ray] Nicolaj Arcel
8
In 17th and 18th Century Europe, the Age of Enlightenment challenged superstition and tradition, ushering in scientific thought and reason amidst a political and cultural landscape influenced by orthodox thinking and church control of state. As Kant would say, this value system was the proposed freedom to use one's intelligence. Since, in a modern context, basic discernment is a rarity amidst diametrically opposed urban and rural, parroted belief structures, with reason often being quashed and vilified by idealistic pleas, there is much to learn from the evolution of Europe and its eventual influence on neighbouring nations. With A Royal Affair, Nicolaj Arcel draws a contextually relevant political parallel between the reign of Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) in 1770s Denmark to an ever-present socio-cultural reaction to change. But before revealing its hand as an incisive work of cultural criticism, the groundwork is laid for a morally abject love story between reluctant Queen Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) and Christian's doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). Unable to love her mentally ill, perpetually childish, fornicating husband, Mathilde retreats into a world of books and fantasy, removed almost entirely from the monarchic performance expected of her. Struensee, a child of scientific thought, manoeuvres his way into their lives via flattery and individual consideration, having a positive influence on the mercurial and erratic Christian, which in turn alleviate much of the negativity and stress imposed upon Mathilde. Her similar interest in the political changes Struensee cautiously manipulates Christian into asserting makes their connection and eventual forbidden love affair a logical extension of the passion ignited through subversive ideological change. And while the story posits itself as an ersatz forbidden romance between the cunning doctor and a deeply unhappy couple, offering compassion and understanding to the King and intellectual stimulation to the Queen, the eventual betrayals of heart and social revolts are what connect A Royal Affair to the modern era. Though Struensee's manipulation eventually lands him in a position where he's able to enact the sort of change the people clamour for, the rapid shifts in human rights leave the masses ambivalent and confused, unable to interpret their own betterment amidst the inconvenience of lifestyle modifications. Similarly, no matter how much reason is able to quash the irrational moral imposition of traditionalist thought, the inherent stigma of infidelity still looms as a damning offence more condemnable than murder. It's quite absurd that amidst the excess abuse of power and routine slaughter of peasants owned by the ruling class that an affair between two consenting adults — one of whom was in a loveless, arranged marriage of sheer presentation — is the ultimate "sin." But still, to this day, regardless of the many freedoms that Enlightenment has allowed, any form of perceived sexual perversion (gay marriage, for instance) is still ripe for social outrage and antiquated, irrational morality. As such, the rage we feel as an audience for the injustice imposed upon Mathilde and Struensee, along with the general stupidity of a populous unable to interpret the bigger picture, is relevant outside the context of this smartly made and impeccably acted costume drama. No supplements are included with the Blu-Ray, which is common for North American releases of foreign language films. (Mongrel Media)