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Queen Christina of Sweden is a dominant European ruler in the 17th century, and has never thought of romance. However, she accidentally and secretly falls in love with an emissary from Spain, even though a marriage between the two seems out of the question. Written by
I'm in the middle of "Wednesday Night is Greta Garbo Night" on TCM, and I am as happy as the proverbial pig. A whole month of Garbo -- 27 films! 1927-1941!!! Needless to say, I rushed right off to Target to stock up on blank videocassettes! I'm the King of the World! The dream of a lifetime fulfilled!
"Queen Christina" is merely one of Garbo's greatest performances, but it's second to none. She imbues the role of the conflicted Swedish monarch with majesty and vulnerability, and also embodies the clarity, determination, assurance, and style of a great ruler. This Christina is no silly Mary Queen of Scots, thoughtlessly throwing everything away for love, and sowing the seeds of her own destruction. Garbo's queen sacrifices power for a man, true, but only because she understands that she can't have both and must have love, that Sweden will still flourish without her, and that to fulfill her deepest needs as a human being she must accept the inevitable cost. She is a lover of the arts, a reader of great books, curious about the entire world and thirsty to drink at the well of experience. She is a bohemian, and there's little satisfaction for her in wielding great power while being denied the opportunity to live fully.
Whether this is an accurate portayal of the historical person is really beside the point. "Queen Christina" is an MGM costume spectacular with MGM's biggest star. And Lord, is she gorgeous!
Watching John Gilbert as Antonio makes me wonder why he didn't last for long in talking pictures. His hairstyle here makes him look a bit goofy, but he's a handsome guy and his speaking voice is perfectly adequate. He doesn't come close to Garbo in charisma -- who does? He handles the role quite well, and the mutual affection of the pair is palpable.
At least one poster has questioned whether the implied homoeroticism of several scenes in this film really exists -- the kiss between the queen and her lady-in-waiting, the "No Chancellor...I shall die a bachelor" line, the reaction of Antonio's servant about him staying in bed all day with "the other gentleman." S/he is wrong -- it's definitely there. But I think Ruben Mamoulian was just having a little fun with Christina's "masculine" eccentricity to add some spice to the story. She was hailed as a "king" at her coronation, and a king she endeavored to be.
Some viewers might find "Queen Christina" dated. It's terribly romantic in the style of the 1930s, and if you can't buy into that you might have problems. Also, there's the characteristic cliche of all the old MGM period films dealing with royalty -- the ceremonial entrance of nobles into the court, accompanied by fanfares and stately music. I counted four of those in this movie -- oh, well, it goes with the genre.
And that final scene? It really is unforgettable!
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