The way to a queen's heart is through Rousseau in A Royal Affair, in which church and state oppression can't, at least for a time, quell enlightenment urges. From prostitute trysts and physician-conducted crotch examinations to wild-stallion rides through the lush countryside, everything is eroticized in Nikolaj Arcel's historical drama about the illicit affair between Caroline (Alicia Vikander)—sent from London to Denmark to marry bonkers King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard)—and the free-thinking doctor Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) who serves as His Majesty's personal physician. Bonded by progressive notions of a free press and peasant rights, their amour defies the status quo as much as their ideals do, but in the face of a religious and ruling establishment uninterested in political change, their passion and principles inevitably spell their doom. With compelling authority, Mikkelsen embodies Struensee with a conviction colored by reckless arrogance, and while Vikander comes off as a rather bland object of his affection, Følsgaard, all closed-mouth giggles and random outbursts of an inappropriate sexual and artistic nature, exudes royal lunacy. Director Arcel handles the material with a stately grace that compensates for the story's predictable trajectory, though humdrum period detail and monotonous pacing too often leave the proceedings feeling only partially aroused.
Vikander gets caught between king and court physician.
Opens Wed., Nov. 21 at Harvard Exit. Rated R. 137 minutes.