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A Royal Affair

I want to bring to your attentions an extraordinary Danish film that was shown at the Chicago film festival, and had a brief theatrical release in North America and the Chicago area last November. if you have not been able to view it yet, it is showing at the Siskel Center in downtown Chicago Feb. 15 to 21, 2013. Visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org for showtimes

En Kongelig Affaere ( titled A Royal Affair for the North America release) is based on actual history as well as two recent novels on the extraordinary story of Christian VII, his queen Caroline Mathilde, and his personal physican Johann Struensee. It well illustrates the collision in the 18th C between the idealism of the enlightenment and the violent and backward nature of existing autocratic regimes. Well told and well made in Czechoslovakia because, according to the director Nikolaj Arcel, they could find no locales that had not been disturbed by modernity in DK and could appear to represent an 18th C environment.

The film is quite compelling in all aspects ñ the cast is superb and the young actor, playing the mentaily unbalanced Christian VII, gives an astonishing performance. The story is well known to Danes, but understandably relatively unknown to the rest of the world. Chronologically the story takes place just before the American and French revolutions at the end of the 18th C, when the ideas of the enlightenment were introduced into an autocratic society from the top down through the unlikely vehicle of the king’s personal physician.

Caroline Mathilde was an English princess and sister of the mad King George III of Great Britian who was married off to her cousin , King Christian VII of Denmark, at the age of 15. Badly neglected by the King, she begins an ill-fated romance with Struensee, sharing with him an admiration for the ideas of the Enlightment. Struensee eventually rules autocratically through the weak king, but introduces many needed reforms.

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Nicolai Schousboe