Poor Caroline Mathilda didn’t have a lot going for her. As a teenage British Princess back in the late 18th Century she was betrothed to her royal husband sight unseen and he turned out to be infantile and deranged. Nevertheless she was shipped off to the snowy back and beyond of Denmark to be it’s Queen not speaking more than the odd phase in Danish, and she also had to deal with a wicked step mother-in-law. When she did get her first peace of happiness she had the misfortune to fall in love with a very surly and serious German!
This extravagant epic costume drama is evidently based on a true story, and tells how the new Queen quickly realises that the King is no more interested in their marriage as she is, and so once she gets pregnant after the first night, and bears him an obligatory Heir, she bans him for her Bedchamber. Once he bores himself with his local whores, Christian takes himself off for a Grand Tour of Europe but halfway through it he manages to have a particularly bad manic spell and his Councillors hurriedly hire a renegade Doctor to help Christian through this.
Strueness is not only an unorthodox Doctor and a German to boot, but he is also a leading member of a secret movement which is seeking radical social reform of Denmark which at that time was an ultra conservative country run by rich aristocrats where the peasants are simply their slaves. The King however, knowing nothing of the Doctor’s real intentions, takes a great shine to Strueness in whom he sees a true friend, and the pair soon become inseparable.
The Physician uses this closeness to encourage and empower the weak King to start pushing his Council for some reforms, and when they retaliate by conspiring to have Strueness arrested and exiled, the King really comes into his own, and disbands them totally and finally makes the Doctor de facto King.
The King is not the only one who takes a real shine to Strueness and soon he is paying late night visits to the Queen’s Bedchamber. This is a perfect arrangement until the Queen gets pregnant and as all the Court knows she hasn’t slept with the King for years, this could turn out to be her undoing. And the Wicked Stepmother and the banished Council Elders insure it is just that, and much much more.
This is Denmark’s Official Entry for Best Foreign Picture Oscar and it has a fine array of their homegrown talent. Directed and co written by Nikolaj Arcel (who also co-wrote the screenplay for ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’) from the best selling novel by Bodil Steensen-Leth. Strueness was played by Mads Mikkelsen, Denmark’s leading man of the moment (equally good as Le Chiffre in ‘Casino Royale’) , King Christian was played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard a young actor still at Drama School but that didn’t stop him picking up the Silver Bear at Berlin Film Festival last year for this performance, and the beautiful Swedish actress Alicia Vikander played the young Queen who wanted more out of life.
It’a a lush big budget rather glorious movie which even managed to make Denmark look inviting (a lot of the exteriors were shot in Prague however) and its a very engaging piece. However have your kleenex ready at the end, as even in historical romantic dramas like this the path of true love is not always a happy one.