Sunday, October 20, 2019

In The Age Of Tweeter Rant-Defend The Enlightenment Like Your Life Depended On-It Does-“A Royal Affair” (2012) Better-“En Kongelig Affaere”-A Film Review

In The Age Of Tweeter Rant-Defend The Enlightenment Like Your Life Depended On-It Does-“A Royal Affair” (2012) Better-“En Kongelig Affaere”-A Film Review

DVD Review

BY Fritz Taylor
“A Royal Affair” Better-“En Kongelig Affaere”

I have on more than one occasion mentioned that I am a child of rock and roll, a child of the classic age of rock in the 1950s which was the first jailbreak movement that led my Generation of ’68 “astray” (in the very best sense of the word). I am, as becomes more necessary to declare each day in this crazy world of alternate facts, lies, and low-grade bullshit as my grandfather was fond of saying when he was pissed off at what passed for civil discourse in his time, a child of the Enlightenment. Yes the 18th century movement of men and women who under great pressure (and maybe the pains of torture and exile) tried to bring some rational discourse to the way people were governed, the way people in civil society dealt with other and some kind of funny idea that equality of person was something humankind could and should aspire to achieve.   
Now being a good old boy growing up from down in Fulton County, Georgia there was no way that I started out life as a child of the Enlightenment unlike the ease which I slipped into being a child of rock and roll. That my friends came courtesy of Uncle Sam, specifically his “request” that I lay down my life for him in the jungles of Vietnam back in1966-1967. (That “request” business really a gag since I volunteered under duress, the duress being directed from a military proud grandfather, the same one fond of saying low-grade bullshit when he was pissed, although subsequently I would come to understand that almost every young man of my Generation of ’68 made decisions under duress under the thunder clouds of a seemingly endless war.)
I was as gung-ho as any previous generation of Taylor male-until-until I got over there, got in -country and came to realize before my eighteen months tour was over (I extended for another six months against the normal year to get an early out they were offering both to get re-ups and to get grunts to stay in country against all good sense) that I had no quarrel with these people and nobody else really did either. That would lead to my post-military service “conversion” to getting on the right side of the angels, getting to understand a whole bunch of stuff like the Enlightenment, a word when I was a kid I had probably never heard of-certainly didn’t act upon any of its ideas. Those lessons though just didn’t come out of the blue but through my involvement with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), you know, the organization ex-Secretary of State John Kerry helped organize in his sunnier days and through coming north to Boston and then west to Frisco. My first “tutor” has a name, the late Peter Paul Markin who I met down in Washington on a G.I. anti-war march and when he fell down of his hubris and what he called “wanting habits” writers here like Sam Lowell, Seth Garth and Josh Breslin picked up the slack.           
Now what does all of this talk of Enlightenment have to do with reviewing a Danish film, in English A Royal Affair assigned to me by site manager Greg Green for whatever reason he thought I would be suitable for doing such heavy lifting. Folks that have seen my name here know that I am something of a military and social justice writer and not a damn film reviewer like Sam Lowell who has spent his whole freaking career blasting out pieces about every kind of god-awful film. The “hook” Greg used was that part of the plot-line of the film was an attempt by people at the Danish court, royal or otherwise to bring Enlightenment values to that benighted country out in the boondocks of Europe and others with vested property and proprietary interest to stop them. I accepted the assignment on that basis maybe in the back of my head figuring I could control my ranting about the damn tweeter storms that have racked civil society in America to its core.
Oh yes, I better confess if that is the right word that beside being a child of rock and roll and of the Enlightenment I am a child of republican (small “r” please note) meaning I defend various forms of republican governmental rule against monarchies, constitutional or otherwise, royalty, the nobility and every damn hanger-on who floats to the surface. So why accept the assignment. Simple that republican ideal was not so-widespread in the middle of the 18th century the time of story-line of this film. At that time Enlightenment ideas were just raising their head in the world and got germinated in the bowels of the old society by certain free-thinking people. So this hatred of the monarchy, remember please King George III all you Jacks and Jills who devour everything coming out of English court-life these days has been an acquired taste for generations coming down to me. The characters here, some of them commoners some royal, don’t question that aspect of governance-that is for later times and larger uprisings than court intrigues.
I have taken a particular slant on this production based on some historical truths around bringing Enlightenment ideas to backwater Denmark. The film itself based on a Danish historical novel about the times-about the sullen reign of mentally disturbed King Christian VII, his English princess wife and a commoner, a doctor goes into another direction and I could if I was Sam Lowell, better, Laura Perkins, have dwelled on the menange between the three chief characters and left it at that. The frame for this one cries out for that treatment since the whole affair, royal or otherwise, is presented from Queen Caroline Matilde’s point of view as she writes to her children on her deathbed about why she has not seen them for a long time.
I have had my say so as Sam always says a little summary is in order. Christian and Caroline, who are cousins, but what else is new with European royal in-breeding. Those interconnections never stopped them from cutting each other to bits. World War I could have just as easily been called the “Cousins’ war” which for its time was the bloodiest conflagration ever seen. A betrothal was arranged and Caroline became the Danish queen having a son by the king. The king who was probably every psychiatrist’s poster child for an assortment of strange mental disturbances was more of a whoremonger and frill than a husband to the well-educated and talented Caroline. That is the predicate for the personal tragedies that follow. Doctor Struensee, a commoner, a German which meant a foreigner then, a low-key man of the Enlightenment was brought in to attend to the king. They became fast friends once the good doctor saw he could have influence over the erratic king in order to push his agenda. Problem, big problem, is that over time Struensee and Caroline become fast friends, very fast indeed, having a child together, a girl who is passed off as the king’s progeny.      
That cuckolded king notion lets the anti-foreign, anti-reform  nobility and another arm of the royal family take the high ground spreading rumors among the common folk that the doctor is running the show and the Queen is egging him on. In the end the threads favoring the Enlightenment were too weak to hold against the old regime and so the doctor and Queen meet bad ends, bad fates. Her losing her children and exile and the Doc having his head taken from him by the executioner’s axe. The only hope is for the future-that the younger generation in the person of the royal prince will do better. And he does. Such are the vagaries of history. Well-done with English subtitles, a tight script and beautiful film work. 

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