This is my kinda film incorporating politics, romance, tragedy, and a strong, unwavering belief in one’s ideals which totally took me by surprise since I had never heard of it, and then found out it was a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. This movie is an accurate account of political intrigue in the battle for progressive reforms against the Danish Court’s conservative values that kept the Danish people under their rule in poverty and ignorance.
A historical drama about the increasingly “mad” King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) of Denmark (reigned 1766-1808) who is married off to an idealistic 15 year-old British Princess of Wales ignorant of what she is getting into when she moves to the throne in Copenhagen; this well educated youthful woman arrives into an environment of conservative religious values and censorship. This is also the period when the ideas of The Age of Enlightenment promoting intellectual skepticism, humanism and scientific exploration pervaded European thought. Very quickly the young Queen Caroline Mathilda (Alicia Vikander) realizes how mentally ill her husband is–she fulfills her “duty” and gives him an heir to the throne, and then she foregoes any further conjugal relations with him.
The catalytic force in this movie is the arrival of German Dr. Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) who is hired to be the King’s personal physician – a man who believes in fighting intolerance and making life more humane for “the people,” through literally tending to them as a doctor, as well as writing anonymous tracts publicizing the ideas of the Enlightenment such as universal education, banishing censorship of the press, abolishing torture and dissolving the slave trade in the colonies, etc. Struensee and the lonely, isolated Queen become aware of their profound philosophical bond, which eventually blossoms into a physical love affair albeit a dangerous liaison. Together they are able to influence the King to enact laws which will improve the lives of the Danish populace until intrigue and a backlash sets in.
A film which is very well-acted, expressive, utopian and a history lesson which was not in my ken. I visited Copenhagen recently and am sorry that I had not seen this movie before visiting – I think the trip would have been even more meaningful.