The Scandinavian film industry has been reborn over the last decade on the back of contemporary stories, from Lars von Trier’s idiosyncratic projects to various genre tales. This handsome, vigorously dramatic production from von Trier’s production company, Zentropa Films, marks a move towards the kind of lavishly staged, true-life historical tales the Brits and French have previously marked out as a speciality. It shows the Danes are more than up to the task.
Denmark’s biggest star, Mads Mikkelsen, is blessed with a meaty role as Dr Struensee, a free-thinking German who is hired as royal physician for insane young King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard) just as Enlightenment ideas begin to challenge the old order.
In the King’s beautiful young English-born bride, Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander), he finds a powerful intellectual ally. Together they manage to manipulate the King into pushing through progressive legislation. But with so much at stake, how long before they acknowledge their dangerous mutual attraction?
The great achievement of director Nikolaj Arcel and screenwriter Rasmus Heisterberg (whose several prior collaborations include the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) is to satisfactorily unite the romantic, dramatic and political elements into a single cohesive unit where all parts are inter-dependent. Performances are first-rate throughout.