En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair) (2012)
Director: Nikolaj Arcel.
Starring: Alicia Vikander (Caroline Mathilde), Mads Mikkelsen (Johann Friedrich Struensee), Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (Christian VII), Trine Dyrholm (Juliane Marie), David Dencik (Ove Høegh-Guldberg), Thomas W. Gabrielsson (Schack Carl Rantzau), Cyron Melville (Enevold Brandt), Bent Mejding (J. H. E. Bernstoff), Harriet Walter (Augusta - Princess of Wales), Laura Bro (Louise von Plessen), Søren Malling (Hartmann), Jakob Ulrik Lohmann (Juliane's Officer), Søren Spanning (Munter), Frederik Christian Johansen (Arveprinsen), John Martinus (Reventlow).
Danish King Christian VII (ruled 1766-1808) suffers from mental illness and is pushed around by radical thinker Johann Friedrich Struensee, his personal physician, who made progressive reforms which did not last long
"Europe, at the close of the 18th century. The nobility rules by oppression, supported by strong religious forces. But the winds of change are blowing. Across the continent intellectuals and freethinkers demand reforms and freedom for the people. It is the age of the Enlightenment."
The present. A young, pretty woman named Caroline strokes a horse's face. She says she's trying to remember Johann Fridrich Struensee's face. She feels she must tell her children about him and about why they did the things they did. She goes to the house and starts writing a letter. She is writing to her children, who, she writes, do not know her. "But I am your mother." She says they may even hate her, but she hopes not. She knows now that she will never see them again.
Flashback. England 1776. Nine years earlier. Caroline Mathilde is picking flowers in a field. She married King Christian VII before even meeting him. She, an English girl, became the Queen of Denmark. As a young girl, she had dreamed of becoming a Queen in an exotic land. And now the dream has come true, but she's nervous that maybe the royal family won't like her.
Denmark. Caroline arrives in Denmark in a carriage. She is going to meet the King right on the road. A woman greets her. She says she is Louise von Plessen and she is her new lady-in-waiting. She then introduces Caroline to Reventlow, His Majesty's private tutor. Louise will take her to the King.
The King hides behind a large tree. Caroline waits for him to come out from behind the tree. As he does so, he has a childish laugh. He comes over to her and bows, saying in English: "The Queen!" Caroline curtsies and says in Danish: "Your Majesty."
Upon arriving at the palace, the King rushes from the carriage to greet his Great Dane dog named Gourmand. He leaves the Queen alone. She has to walk up to the King still playing with his dog.
In her room the Queen asks when will she see Christian again? At tonight's banquet. So she asks Louise where are her books that she brought with her? They are being examined. A great many of Caroline's books are under Danish censorship.
Louise tells the Queen about the really important people at the dinner. Minister Bernstoff has absolute power in the castle. Minister Warberg, well, stay away from him. He has a bad body odor. The Queen asks if the older woman is the King's stepmother? She is Queen Dowager Juliane Marie. The young man next to her is His Majesty's half-brother, the heir presumptive. Those two are not popular with the people. His Majesty doesn't even regard them as part of the family.
The Queen moves her chair closer to the King. She tells him that he was so far away. He says the Queen has a flair for drama. Caroline asks him if he will come to her chambers following the evening's events? Christian looks over to his adviser and the man nods "yes". So Christian replies: "Yes."
The Queen plays the harpsichord for the dinner attendees. The stepmother is delighted with the new Queen. She tells the King that the nobles like her. They feel she is just what the Court needs. And it will be nice to have an artist as the Queen. Christian childishly scoffs at the idea of the Queen being needed. He rudely shouts at the Queen, still playing: "Thank you, that is quite enough!" Everybody freezes in place at this. Christian asks: "What? . . . What? .. . That insufferable noise is giving me a headache!" His rudeness continues: "Move your fat little thighs and have a seat." The Queen takes her seat, feeling very humiliated.
Later in her chambers, she has to await the arrival of the King. He comes in alone and goes and sits on the bed. She goes over to the bed and sits down by him. He opens his pants, takes her hand and moves her hand up and down on his penis. He then virtually attacks her. Caroline fights him and throws him off the bed. She apologizes. The King says to her: "Don't steal my light!" She asks him what he means, but he only tells her to take off her clothes and lay on the bed. She gets under the covers and then pulls off her single garment. The King blows out all the candles.
Looking back on it, the Queen says she wishes she could have forgiven his childish and rude behavior, but she was too young to understand how sick and tormented he was. One of his worse habits was relying on prostitutes. "I began hating him for it."
The Queen becomes pregnant with her future child, Frederik. After that, she decided not to carry on with the facade and for that she paid dearly. One day out walking in the snow, the King makes a snowball and attacks Louise, bringing her to the ground and rubbing the snowball in her face. He tells Louise that she is fired. The Queen is obviously upset at this outbreak of violence. And now she has to say goodbye to her good friend.
The Queen is giving birth to Frederik. The doctor tells her not to scream, so Caroline screams even louder.
The baby has stomach problems and screams a lot. The King now tells the Queen that he will be away on a tour that will last from one to two years. She asks him: "Do you think it matters to me whether you're here or not?" The King turns and leaves.
Altona, a Danish colony in Germany, 1768. A messenger comes over to Dr. Johann Friedrich Struensee, asking him to come to the estate of Count Rantzau to attend to the Count immediately. The doctor is patching up a bleeding man. He asks his colleagues if he should abandon his patient for a count? One colleague answers that perhaps the Count will pay him. Certainly no one else here will do that.
The doctor examines the Count's genitals. The Count says to the doctor that it's strange that a man whose father is one of the most conservative priests in the land likes to write about the thoughts of the revolutionary French freethinkers. If he hadn't written them anonymously, right now he would be in jail. He then tells Struensee not to worry for they are not going to say anything. But he wants to know if the doctor would like to be the King's personal physician.
The Count goes on to say that he and Brandt here were members of the King's Court. But when King Frederik died, Minister Bernstoff removed the ones he didn't like, and that included the two sitting by the doctor right now. They would like to get back to being in the court. The new King is right now in Hamburg on his grand tour of Europe, but now he's too sick to continue the tour. Strueensee asks what's wrong with him and Brandt points to his head to indicate the King is a bit crazy. And they need a doctor who will travel with the King through the rest of his journey. If they can get Struensee into the position then, in turn, Struensee will use his position to get Brandt and Rantzau back into the inner circle. Struensee agrees.
Struensee sits in a chair accompanied by five other candidates for the King's new physician. A man comes out and calls for Struensee. Struensee asks the man if he has any idea of the King's medical problems. The man says he thinks it all stems from the King's excessive masturbation.
Struensee goes into see the King, who is not in a good mood. Struensee just asks the King why does he think the Court thinks he needs a doctor? The King says he drinks a lot, likes hookers with big breasts and likes fighting. Struensee surprises the King by asking: "What's wrong with that?" Christian says because he's the King. The King starts quoting passages from Shakespeare and Struensee replies with another quote from Shakespeare. The King likes this game and even suggests sayings for the doctor to say.
Copenhagen, 1769. The King returns to the palace with Struensee behind him. Her Majesty welcomes him home, but he only asks where are all the people? He wanted the people to cheer for him. He orders that they bring the people in now or he will jump in the canal. Struensee calms the King down by suggesting that a swim in the canal is a wonderful idea. Now that someone agrees with him, the King is content and says perhaps later. He takes Struensee's hand and pulls him behind him up the steps and into the palace.
The Queen and three ladies-in-waiting talk about how terrible it was for the King to dismiss his old, faithful tutor Reventlow. One woman says that the new physician is setting a bad example for the King, dragging him to see the whores. The Queen says that right now the King is giving the physician a tour of the castle.
The King asks that Struensee sit in on a meeting run by Minister Bernstoff. Struensee watches as the King is bored out of his mind and signs whatever document Bernstoff sets in front of him. When the King is finished signing the documents, he walks over to Struensee and whispers to him: "They all think I'm crazy."
Struensee calls for his two backers to come to meet him at a brothel. Both men are disappointed that they were invited to a brothel and not the Court. The two backers pass by the King and, while he is screwing a prostitute in the living room, he calls out to the two men. The King says he missed them and welcomes them back.
The King awakens the Queen as he returns. She comes down and scolds the King for getting drunk at a brothel and returning to the palace for everyone to see him drunk. Struensee starts to say something to the Queen, but she tells Struensee that she is not interested in what he has to say. The King apologizes and then adds on the word: Mother. He laughs at his own joke.
In the morning the King practices fencing with the doctor. He asks: "Why did I have to end up with that boring cow?" Struensee asks if His Majesty has ever considered that the woman might be ill? The King says that's right and he urges Struensee to attend to the Queen. The doctor says the Queen doesn't like him and suggests another physician, but the King insists it must be Struensee. He tells the doctor to make his wife fun: "I want a fun queen."
The doctor examines the Queen and says that she is in good health, but her problem is his attitude, her mood. Does she get enough fresh air? Does she have hobbies? He heard that she is a good pianist. The Queen says he heard wrong. The doctor then says that he is going to recommend that the family move to the summer residence. She finds in the doctor's library a book by Rousseau, the famous French philosopher, a banned book.
Holstein, Germany. The Queen is in Holstein and she watches as her husband and his physician act like two boys playing down by a creek.
A gentleman says to Struensee that he hears there's a smallpox epidemic coming to Copenhagen. The doctor says let's hope it will be a small epidemic. The Queen keeps looking over at Struensee, so he goes over to talk to her. He arranges a meeting with her to teach her a way of riding a horse without using the side-saddle method.
The two go out riding and Her Majesty really enjoys herself. It starts to rain and they go under a tree. The Queen says the rain and the grass remind her of England. On their way back they discuss the views of several Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke, Voltaire and Rousseau. Also on their way back they see a peasant tortured to death riding a "wooden horse" torture instrument.
The Queen looks for Struensee the next day, but Brandt tells her he went back to Copenhagen because of the smallpox epidemic.
Copenhagen, 1769. Struensee asks for the day's death count. It's 20 dead.
Struensee's actions bring him criticism from the other doctors. They learn that Struensee wants to do something different to save the Crown PrinceFrederik and they tell the royal family that they oppose Struensee's ideas. The leader of the resistance is Guldberg. The physician's doctor says that around 700 people have died within the last two months, most of them children. And now the disease has jumped the canal and has reached Christiansborg. Bernstoff asks if the doctor has previously tested this inoculation? Struensee says yes, and he has also tried it on himself. He believes that if he inoculates the Crown Prince, he will be immune from small pox. Bernstoff asks His Majesty, who defers to the Queen and she nods yes.
The small child is inoculated.
The inoculation was a success. Now Her Majesty wants others to be inoculated immediately. The proposal has to go before the Council. The decision is that the inoculations would be too expensive. They will consider it again at another time.
Now Struensee sends his anonymously revolutionary published books to the Queen. On her bed, she reads them.
Brandt notices the glances between the Queen and Struensee. He tells the doctor that he likes him a lot, but Struensee is a fool. He says: "I don't want to mourn by your severed head." Struensee just walks away from him.
The Queen sits out in the woods with Struensee. She asks him: "Do you think we'll ever be free?" She says she means "mankind". Struensee says yes. But, he himself, has no more power than a maid. Caroline says he has a great deal of influence on Christian. "He trusts you unconditionally."
Struensee must have thought that over a lot, for now he tries to flatter the King into thinking that the royal can be an amazing king. And the King can do this because he loves to act. And the King will have lines that have already been written for him. The doctor asks him what's the one thing the King would like to change if he had the power?
So the King gets up before the Council and declares war on "shit". He wants to triple the number of waste collectors on the streets. Bernstoff asks where is the money coming from? The King spouts out the lines written for him and Bernstoff acquiesces: "Fine, Your Majesty. More waste collectors." Oh, and the King wants his dog named an honorary member of the Council.
At a masquerade ball, Struensee dances with Her Majesty. The King goes around flirting with various women. Struensee leaves after that one dance. The Queen comes and finds him. They kiss passionately. Caroline then gets spooked a little and runs away.
The Queen has a bath after a boring dinner. (Tiny bit of nudity.)
A servant comes with a message for Struensee. He goes up some back stairs and finds a hidden key. He unlocks the door and there is the Queen waiting for him. They Kiss passionately. They have sex. (Brief nudity.)
Back to the present. Caroline writes to her children: "I'm not asking you to understand or forgive my actions, but for the first time in my life I was happy. We thought we could have it all. We were naive." (Brief nudity.) "For awhile it felt like we could do something. Bring about change." Their little group of freethinkers grew. And so did their ideas. "But ultimately the Council was too strong." And the more the ideas pushed by Christian failed, the more despondent he became.
Flashback. Then the Queen comes up with a new idea. What if Struensee had a seat on the Council?
One of Struensee's enemies on the Council, Guldberg, enlists the help of the Queen Dowager. He thinks it's the German Struensee who is giving the King all these new ideas. And, he says, it's not good for the Queen Dowager's plans for her son, if Christian acts like a good king.
The Queen Dowager enlists the aide of servants to eavesdrop on the King's conversations. Then she goes to Bernstoff with her information. Before the whole Council she reveals the private, radical writings of Struensee. In short, Guldberg says to the Council: "The King is letting himself be directed by a man of the Enlightenment." The Queen Dowager says to Bernstoff that he cannot let a dangerous man like Struensee stay at Court. The King tells Struensee that he feels that something's wrong. Struensee tells him not to worry. They go into the Council Meeting. Bernstoff asks the King if he has any new proposals? The King says that new blood is needed for the Council. With that Bernstoff launches the attack on the King and Struensee. He says he knows the King is going to ask that Struensee be put on the Council. But that is not going to be permitted. Furthermore, they know all about the radical ideas of the German. And, he now says: "I call a referendum on removing Dr. Struensee from Court and expelling him from Denmark." The vote is unanimous and Struensee is removed by Danish troops.
The King gets angry and tells the troops to let Struensee go or he will have their heads off. He then relieves Bersntorff of his duties. Furthermore, he declares the entire Council dissolved. He says he and Struensee will head the new government. The King leaves. Outside he hugs Struensee and says he finally did it. Struense hugs the King saying there are so many good things they now can do.
The King brags to the Queen about what he has done.
Posters are put up that talk about the Dissolution of the State Council. A lot of good laws were passed. Everything seemed possible. Denmark became a pioneering country admired across Europe.
A female servant smells semen odors coming from the Queen's bed.
Christian gets a letter from Voltaire. Struensee shows the letter to the Queen. She's pleased, but Struensee senses some unease with the Queen. She tells him that she's pregnant. And everybody knows that she has not been with Christian for a long time.
So Struensee tells the King that the Queen told him that her husband has not been with her for over a year. She now says she wants the King to come to her. The King says he can't get an erection with the Queen.
At dinner the King just blurts it out that he is beginning again his conjugal visits to the Queen.
At night the King goes to the Queen's chambers. Later Struensee comes to visit the Queen. She has bad news for her lover. "We have to see each other as little as possible from now on. For the sake of the child. Please leave."
One night the Queen tells Christian that they have to stop sleeping in the bed together, because of the baby. She asks him to sleep in his own chambers, but, although he will forgo the sex, he wants to be with the Queen and the coming baby in her chambers.
Struensee informs the King that the economy is bad and they will have to make cuts. The King keeps acting like a child and it so gets on Struensee's nerves that he screams at the King. The King gets upset and says: "You can't yell at me. Don't ever do that." Struensee apologizes. Nevertheless, a little later he tells the King that he doesn't have to sign every little document that comes before them. The doctor says he can take care of a lot of these small problems without the King ever being involved. The King says he has fun when he is with Struensee. He wants to stay working with him.
Count Rantzau takes a walk with Struensee and tells him that he's broke and his Sophie has left him. He wants Struensee just to forgive his debt. Struensee says he can't do that. The Count, now a bitter and revengeful man, walks away from Struensee.
Struensee tells the Queen that he is not staying at the summer residence much longer. He grabs the Queen and touches her and her baby bump. The Queen Dowager sees this and immediately gathers the women servants together. She wants to know from the servants what sort of lechery has been taking place in the Queen's chambers? One of the servants speaks alone with the Queen Dowager saying that she did see something.
The Queen has her child, a daughter.
Struensee decides to increase the taxes on the nobles. His colleagues advise him not to do this, because it will cause a tremendous uproar among the wealthy.
Struensee joins the others to get a look at his new daughter. Her name is Louise Augusta. Caroline asks him to stay behind when everyone else leaves the room. They kiss and tell each other I love you.
The Queen Dowager plots a coup with her son as the next King.
Brandt comes to tell Struensee that the King has gone crazy. Struensee goes to see Christian, who now knows about the child. He asks Struensee: "Was it always her you wanted? . . . Is the child yours?" Struensee says no, but Christian wants to know, why then would someone write it down? Christian gets on his horse in the pouring rain and leaves. A woman hands Struensee a printed up flyer entitled: "While the King Sleeps". It has a drawing of Struensee with the Queen having an affair.
Struensee goes to see Caroline. She says they will take their daughter from them.
Struensee comes to see his enemy Guldberg. He tells the man that he is relieved of all his Court duties and he is to leave town.
Evidently, the King believes Struensee's denial because they are still together. Struensee gives he King a present: a little African slave that escaped to the royal kitchen. The King is fascinated by the boy's color and says he will play with the boy, but he is mad when Struensee says Brandt and not Struensee will play with the King and the boy. The King says he hates Brandt.
Now the free press of Denmark is deluged with articles saying that the King is in danger from the lovers, the Queen and Struensee. One article says that the Queen is poisoning Christian to make him insane. Other articles say that the evil foreigner is destroying the country with all his new laws. One adviser says they have to reinstate censorship. Struensee tells him to do it.
Caroline is so upset by all the bad news that she hasn't slept for two days. Struensee gives her laudanum.
Caroline hears her baby crying. She comes into the bedroom and sees Christian with the baby. She becomes so angry that she slaps him across the face and tells him that he is never to be alone with the baby again. He says he didn't do anything. He gets out of the room quickly.
The royal dinners are very quiet these days. Struense walks into the room and the King goes beserk. He shouts do they want to know the true father of the baby girl? It's the King or Prussia (meaning Struensee). Now the King attacks Brandt after calling him a fairy. Struensee stops the fight and the King walks out of the room. Struense follows the King out of the room.
Struensee asks if the King wants to be all alone again? This could happen because the King is acting like a crazy man. This scares the King and he hugs Struensee. They hug each other.
Now Struensee starts to confess his sins, but the King doesn't want to hear the confession. The King starts crying and saying that everything must be as it was before.
Guldberg confers with the Queen Dowager again. He tells her that it will happen at the Court Ball coming up in two days.
January 16, 1772. At the Court Ball. The Queen takes some more laudanum and falls on the floor. Struensee comes to her rescue. She tells him she hasn't dressed because she doesn't feel like attending the Court Ball. He says they have to go. Caroline says he could leave Denmark. He says he can't go and leave Denmark to the priests.
The Queen Dowager enlists the help of the commander of the King's Life Guard, which is set to be cut out of the budget.
Guldberg enlists the help of Count Rantzau. All his debts will be forgiven and he will get to sit on the Council.
A large mob assembles saying they want to see the King and death to the German. It is led by the commander of the King's Life Guard.
The military lets the mob in through the palace gate. Struensee is told of the troubles.
Struensee grabs the King and tells him that the crowd wants to see the King, but the King is frightened that they will kill him and he tells Struensee that he's the King now and he will deal with the mob. The real King leaves.
The mob is trying to force its way through another gate.
Struensee goes back to see the Queen. He says the mob will go away once it starts feeling the January cold. She asks him to come to see her tonight.
Guldberg comes into the King's chambers and frightens the King who thinks they are there to kill him. Guldberg tells him to be calm because they have only come to save his life. He goes on to say that the only way to stop the mob is to give them the German. The King says he can't do that. Count Rantzau now comes forward to tell the King that Struensee, Brandt and the Queen are plotting to kill the King. He says he overheard them talking together. And now they hand a document for the arrest of the three plotters to the King to sign. The doctor yells at the King to sign the document and, under pressure, the King signs.
And now they arrest Struense for conspiracy against the King and the Danish people. Next they come for the Queen. Struensee is placed with Brandt in a carriage. The Queen Dowager tells the Queen that Frederik is staying here in the palace with his father, but since the Queen is still breast-feeding the baby girl, Louise can go with the Queen. Frederik is taken from her by force. The Queen starts crying. She is then dragged away.
The commander comes into Struensee's jail cell and slaps him hard. He says that the German has seduced the Queen, conspired against the Court and plotted to kill the King and led Denmark astray. Then another man repeatedly strikes Struensee with his fist.
The Queen learns that Struensee has confessed to his crimes. They tortured him for days until he finally gave in. She has already written a letter to Christian to pardon Struensee and Brandt.
A priest comes into Struensee and tells him that the King wants to pardon Struensee and Brandt on the day of their execution. The Council will agree to this if Struensee will sign a statement admitting that he was mistaken in all the things he said and did.
On the day of execution, Guldberg lies to the King and tells him it's not the day of execution.
Struensee and Brandt are brought to the place of execution. There is no king there. Off goes Brandt's head. And now it's Struensee's turn. People attack Struensee as he approaches the steps up to the high platform. The guards have to push these men aside. By the platform, Struensee slips on the blood of Brandt a couple of times.
The Queen screams in pain when she learns that Struensee and Brandt have had their heads cut off.
Now Guldberg runs the Council and the son of the Queen Dowager sits where the King usually sat. The King and his black boy friend sit off to the side. Guldberg tells the King to go and play with his negro.
Back to the present. The Queen writes she was glad that it was Germany that she was deported to. The place, Celle, is not far from where Johann was raised and did his work. And there she was reunited with her first lady-in-waiting. She has lived here now for five years, but the Court still keeps a close watch on her and refuses to let her leave Celle. She has become ill and will not survive the illness, but, at least, she has told her story to her children and they will read the account one day.
Denmark 1783. The Queen wrote that Denmark regressed to the Middle Ages since the death of Johann. Denmark became a dark place controlled by faith and suspicion.
Frederik and Louise Augusta come out to see their mother's faithful lady-in-waiting, who has the Queen's long letter in her hands. She hands the manuscript over to Louise. The two royals now sit down by the side of a pond and read the document.
"With his father's help Frederik staged a coup d'état and seized power at the age of 16. Guldberg, Juliane Marie and their Cabinet were banished from Court. In the course of Frederik's 55-year-long reign almost all of Struensee's law were reinstated. Frederik went even further than Johann when he abolished serfdom and liberated the peasants."
This is quite the involved story. The real problems all stemmed from the fact that the Danish King was not mentally stable and was totally unfit to be the King of Demark. (Actually, they say now that the King suffered from schizophrenia, but that's a lot more terrible of a condition as the one presented in the movie.) Into this vacuum of power, multiple parties started to compete for the real control and power in Denmark. Bernstoff and his people took the real power as they controlled the Council. Bernstoff threw out many men from the Court. Two men desperately wanted to get back to the Court: Count Rantzau and Brandt. The two men learn that there is an opening for the position of the King's personal physician. So they grab a German doctor named Struensee and make a deal with him. They will back Struensee's candidacy for the position in return for the doctor getting them back into the Court.
Secretly, the doctor is a man of the Enlightenment and has written a lot of radical material anonymously. He wants to exercise some power so he can make some of the reforms, in which he believes, in Denmark. So the doctor becomes very powerful because he gets along so well with the King. He's the only one willing to "play" as boys with the King. Then Struensee makes a big blunder by falling in love with the ever-neglected Queen.
When Struensee becomes powerful and many of his reforms are passed, he becomes public enemy number one to the nobles who run Denmark. The nobles in the Council, led by Guldberg, start plotting a coup to take back the power from the King and Struensee. The plotters lie and cheat to bring down Struensee and put themselves back in power.
The coup is a tragedy because it pushes Denmark backwards, away from the great principles of the Enlightenment. Will the situation be rectified?
I was pleased with all the actors playing the main parts. Both my wife and I enjoyed the film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1533-1863 -- rule of the House of Oldenburg.
1766-1808 -- reign of King Christian VII.
"In the 1770s, during the reign of the mentally unstable Christian VII (1766–1808), the queen's lover, a German doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee, became the real ruler of the country. Filled with the ideas of the Enlightenment, he attempted a number of radical reforms including freedom of the press and religion. But it was short-lived. The landlords feared that the reforms were a threat to their power, while the commoners believed that religious freedom was an invitation to atheism.
In 1772, Struensee was arrested, tried, and convicted of crimes against the majesty, his right hand was cut off following his beheading, his remains were quartered and put on display on top of spikes on the commons west of Copenhagen. The next 12 years were a period of unmitigated reaction until a group of reformers gained power in 1784."
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