A ROYAL AFFAIR (Mongrel, 2012) D: Nikolaj Arcel, w/ Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander. Rating: NNN; Blu-ray package: none Rating: NNN
We don't see many genuine tragedies these days, the kind where the hero's greatest virtue is his undoing, brought on by that overweening self-confidence the Greeks called hubris.
Dr. Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) is a tragic hero. A German hired in the early 1760s as personal physician to Denmark's mad king Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard), he's an Enlightenment man, committed to individual liberty and social reform. Denmark is a feudal state. Struensee begins an affair with Christian's unhappy queen, Caroline, and together they realize they can manipulate Christian into liberalizing the country's laws. But Struensee goes too far too fast, and the entrenched clergy and nobility strike back.
As Struensee, Mikkelsen exercises his considerable range. He's tender, frightened, noble, sinister, corrupt, jealous, guilt-ridden and thoughtful. He makes a fine contrast to Følsgaard, whose Christian is playful, petulant, frustrated and at the mercy of abrupt mood swings.
The Oscar-nominated movie runs a little over two hours, and the first is largely set-up, so it drags a bit at times. The visuals are competent and professional without offering much eye candy.
Struensee and Christian's story is a well-known part of Danish history. In the absence of extras, you can look it up if you're interested.
EXTRAS Danish, French audio. English subtitles.