(out of 5)
An English princess (Alicia Vikander) is brought to the Danish court of King Christian VII as his bride, having been schooled in the culture and language and prepared to bear his heirs. When she arrives she is greeted by an eccentric personality bordering on madness, a wayward and weak ruler who is only brought into line when he hires a personal physician from a German colony (Mads Mikkelsen) to be his right hand in all political manners. When Christian disbands the conservative, unbending council and puts Mikkelsen in charge of the nation, it ushers in a period of reform and progress that places Denmark at the forefront of the Enlightenment. Making so many enemies in such a short period of time does nothing good for the doctor, however, and the passionate affair that springs up between him and the young queen does them no service when it becomes fuel for their adversaries to use against them later on. This highly enjoyable soap opera, lushly produced and skillfully directed, gets no points for originality—you can pretty much tell where it’s going the minute a character quotes Malory in the first third—but what it does well is encourage sympathy for its players despite the familiarity of it all. Mikkelsen’s strong screen presence more than makes up for Vikander’s less inspiring powers, appropriate and poised but not quite charismatic enough to carry a film; their love affair is an easily dismissed necessity of the plot, while the relationship between the doctor and the king is far more entrancing by comparison. It’s a weighty epic with a more than healthy running time, but it is worth waiting for the very satisfying conclusion.
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
Cinematography by Rasmus Videbaek
Production Design by Niels Sejer
Costume Design by Manon Rasmussen