Directed by Bille August, ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’ is a comedy-drama film that keeps you hooked with its quirky narrative. The Danish film follows Mr. Cazotte, a painter and self-proclaimed seduction expert, who is appointed by the Grand Duchess of Babenhausen to teach the introverted Crown Prince Lothar the art of lovemaking. However, the plan backfires when an heir is born out of wedlock and the royal family is forced to move to an uninhabited castle to shield themselves from a scandal that can risk their claim to the throne.
Meanwhile, Cazotte falls for Ehrengard, the lady-in-waiting, and decides to seduce her with his tricks. The period romantic film is driven by the stellar performances of Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Alice Bier Zanden, Emilie Kroyer Koppel, Emil Aron Dorph, and Jacob Lohmann. The realistic portrayal of royal customs in the film, along with the authentic performances, makes one wonder if ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’ is inspired by any real-life event. If you also have the same question in mind, we have got your back!
Is Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction a True Story?
No, ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’ is not based on a true story. Instead, the film is an adaptation of Danish author Karen Blixen’s novel ‘Ehrengard’ by screenwriter Anders Frithiof August and director Bille August. The book was published in 1962, after the death of the author, also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen. This is the second time the novel has been adapted into a film, after the 1982 eponymous Italian drama by Emidio Greco.
Akin to the novel, the film explores the themes of love, seduction, duty, and tradition. The premise is set in the fantasy kingdom of Babenhausen, where the Grand Duchess is worried about the throne being snatched from her family as the Crown Prince, Lothar, isn’t married yet. She hires Cazotte, an expert in love, to teach Lothar the art of lovemaking. The Prince is then able to seduce a Princess named Ludmilla, who gets pregnant even before their wedding. To conceal the secret of an heir born out of wedlock, the couple is sent to live in the castle of Rosenbad, along with Cozette and Ehrengard, the lady-in-waiting to Princess Ludmilla. As the family endeavors to keep their secret hidden from their rival cousins, the Marbods, Cozette falls for Ehrengard and sets out on a mission to seduce her.
And while the film is a work of fiction, it does refer to a famous real-world personality. The character of Cozette shares many characteristics with Italian adventurer and author Giacomo Casanova. The 18th-century figure was known to be a womanizer who had numerous love affairs with women from various social backgrounds. Throughout his life, Casanova embarked on extensive journeys in Europe, visiting cities like Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. The author’s popular autobiography ‘Histoire de Ma Vie’ (‘Story of My Life’) gives an account of his escapades and also provides insight into the cultural and social norms of 18th-century Europe. He was also a polymath, well-versed in various fields such as law, philosophy, and mathematics. So, while Cazotte’s character is not explicitly based on Casanova’s life, the two share the common traits of being philanderers and avid travelers.
The film has another real-world connection as Queen Margrethe II, the monarch of Denmark, was involved in the project as a set designer. The marvelous decor and the iconic costumes that feature in the movie are the creations of the Queen herself. Speaking about the adaptation of Karen Blixen’s work, the Queen stated, “Karen Blixen’s stories have always fascinated me, with their aesthetic tales, their imagination and their, to me, image-creating worlds – and I’m very happy to be part of this project. You can feel that the author was a visual artist just like H.C. Andersen. But who is Ehrengard? One of Karen Blixen’s intriguing female characters and one of the few whose story ends happily.”
“The intrigues weave themselves in and out of each other and Blixen spins her spin around the characters until we (and they) are completely nonplussed. How will the riddle be solved? I have tried to interpret Blixen’s fantastic universe in the creation of the découpages and costumes and I’m looking forward to seeing the tale of Ehrengard come to life in this film,” added the Queen. And hence, ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’ is not based on any true story. However, it references a historical personality and explores the themes that are relevant to the real world.