DVD Review: A Royal Affair

As I mentioned the last time I did a DVD review, I don’t do them too often. I do prefer writing them when I didn’t write about a film I enjoyed upon its initial release. Thus, when I saw that A Royal Affair was coming around on DVD I decided I would do so.

I saw the film just before my annual year-end dash to see a multitude of titles and bolster my BAM Awards field. Its being the Danish submission and eventual Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominee also helped bring me out to it. However, I will admit that its costume drama nature did give me some trepidation, as did, as much I hate to admit it, its length.

I was glad to report then, and even gladder now, that I enjoyed it a great deal and it held up to a re-screening.

What brings this film jumping off the screen is that it doesn’t put the cart before the horse. It doesn’t make costume or historical accuracy as paramount. It immediately places the audience in a position where it can identify with the young queen and quickly plunges us into the loveless, arranged royal marriage and the torrid romantic love affair. Nearly as soon as the players and politics can be quickly established, we go into the personal matter.

What watching the DVD, with all its features underlined, is that the tale was rendered in a rather universal way, even though director Nicolaj Arcel wanted to bring the story to the big screen because it’s a big, great Danish tale that had not yet seen a silver screen rendition. What’s more interesting is that he learned of the more rounded nature of Carolne Mathilde’s character and her diaries in researching the film, and it created a great frame.

And this background information also lends some insight into the selection of the film as the Danish representative. As much as I, and many others, enjoyed it, I cannot judge how it stacks up to its competition, but it has now been underscored for me the national importance the tale has.

Most of these factoids were things I gleaned by listening to the three interviews (Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolaj Arcel and Alicia Vikander). The other bonus features are the standard trailer and two interesting royal tidbits: portraits and bios of key players in the film as well as royal family trees which trace both the Danish Royal family just prior to the film to the present, as well as the British Royal family to the present, as Caroline Mathilde was English.

The film is highly engaging, well written and excellently performed. When all was said and done it was nominated for a BAM Award last year (Mikkel Bo Folsgaard for Best Supporting Actor0.

It is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Magnolia Pictures home video now.

9/10

Rewind Review- The Maid

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

A Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and not submitted for the Oscars The Maid is a title likely to slip through the cracks. This, however, would be sad as it is a film guided by the cool hand of second time feature director, Sebastián Silva.

The film begins with the camera staying in the kitchen and our protagonist Raquel, played by Catalina Saaverda, going in and out to serve the family dinner. The next scene opens on her birthday, an event that will be effectively distorted in a mirrored scene later, and she is embarrassed and doesn’t want to take part. We can see she wants to but can’t. This is one example of the contradictory nature that will be effectively revealed by Saaverda throughout.

What we have here is an examination of a world rarely looked at and also of a figure that though foreign to most American audiences, a maid, is still very much a part of the fabric of Latin households. We get a glimpse at the strong yet tenuous bond that exists in this household.

Saaverda’s performance was one of the most decorated of 2009 and it’s easy to see why. She carries the film with a gruff charm and though her actions may seem simple there is always intent and thought going into everything. Looks contain lines of dialogue undelivered and the simplest words uttered over a cell phone to her mother carry more profundity because of what is not said than because of what is.

As the maid struggles with her health, job security and personal insecurity we also see her deal with an influx of new maids brought in to give her help she doesn’t want. These battles help bring humor and tension to the mix.

The subtlety of the film and the performance can truly be felt when the character of Lucy is brought into the mix. For it is in an exchange where Lucy assures her “I’m not going to be here for the rest of my life. I’d rather die” where the change occurs. What we see on Saaverda’s face is reproach but what we really get, as an audience, is a turning point. Raquel slowly realizes Lucy really isn’t a threat to her job and she starts to confide in her.

It is typically in a lesser character where you can see how far a film goes to build character and to give them depth. Mundo, the patriarch of the family, seems like your typical aloof film father. He claims he’s going up to work in his office and is really just working on his model boat. This seems to be all that matters to him ever. When he finds his family on his bed frantically trying to piece it together after its been broken, quicker than expected he gets a hold of himself and allows perspective to enter his life and he says it’s no big deal.

It’s interesting to note that this film played at the European Film Market and the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine at a running time twenty minutes longer than it currently is. It doesn’t necessarily have those pace issues at current. It takes its time and five minutes off would likely not change a thing. It’s good to see that it has been addressed and would actually be interesting to if an alternate cut makes the DVD.

While the highs are never that high and the lows are never that low this is a very strong and effective work from a director who knows how to put together an effective and thought-provoking tale. Silva is name who should be noted and have an eye kept on.

8/10