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One of silent cinema's greatest pairings, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert starred together one last time in Queen Christina. Gilbert's career was in tatters by 1933 after a string on failures, and Laurence Olivier had already bailed from the role, but Garbo insisted on Gilbert. And he is wonderful as the Spanish envoy. He looks great and gives a sly performance with plenty of wit. This is also one of Garbo's best talkies. Together they light up the screen. This film also boasts some of the most gorgeous close ups of Garbo you've ever seen. Solid historical drama of Swedish queen who abdicates for love. Good supporting cast includes Lewis Stone, Reginald Owen, Akim Tamiroff, Ian Keith as the slimy Magnus, C. Aubrey Smith, Elizabeth Young, and David Torrence. Beautiful film with solid performances and, dare I say, very feminist in its view. Gilbert's performance in this film and Downstairs (1932) should have put him back on top. What a shame. Norma Desmond was right when she said, "They took the idols and they smashed them. The The Gilberts, the Fairbankses, the Valentinos."
"I,m tired of being a symbol, Chancellor, I long to be a human being!
This longing I cannot suppress!" (Greta Garbo as queen Christina)
On December, the 26th, 1933 Rouben Mamoulian's great production about the Swedish queen was released. Greta Garbo (1905-1990), a Swedish actress already famous for her roles in silent movies and some sound films, like Anna Christie (1930), was cast to play the main role by Rouben Mamoulian for the first time in her new contract. Perhaps, the producers with the director expected some success, but certainly nobody could think of the movie being watched and admired in the 21st century...
The story of Christina is changed; however, it does not make a serious distortion. The movie shows a lot of true facts from her life (her coronation in 1632 and her desire for peace) as well as some additional events (she did not abdicate for love). But, like with most other films, history had to be interpreted to the need of the audience of the 1930s.
The movie is mostly famous for dealing with Christina's desire for personal happiness and love affair between Christina and the Spanish ambassador Don Antonio De Pimentel (John Gilbert). The most memorable scene, for me personally, is their first meeting in an inn. The way Mr Mamoulian showed it is really extraordinary: nothing vulgar or open without taboo. Grapes which are a reference either to Ancient Greece and god Bachus or to Spain, Antonio's homeland. Christina is showed walking through the room and touching all objects in order to memorize them. Greta Garbo gives one of her finest performances in this memorable scene. REALLY SENSIBLE SCENE THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE WOULD BE ABLE TO SHOOT NOWADAYS! What is more, her lesbianism is hidden. There is only one moment when Christina kisses one of her servant girls in the mouth.
Another significant aspect of the movie is Christina's long for being a human, not a symbol. Her famous words that I contained at the beginning of my review reflect her personality. Everything she does is for happiness. She falls in love with Antonio and plans a happy life with him. However, Antonio dies in her arms and their love cannot be fulfilled. The final shot of Christina standing at the bow of the ship as it sets sail is another impressive, magnificent moment. Before shooting this scene, Mr Mamoulian said to Greta: "I want your face to be a blank sheet of paper. I want the writing to be done by every member of the audience..."
The cast are excellent. Greta Garbo performed in many movies, including ANNA KARENINA (1935), LOVE (1927), MATA HARI (1931), CAMILLE (1936), and in all of them, she was perfect; but this role is her ultimate masterpiece. Undoubtedly incredible! Even if you don't like anything about this movie, Greta's performance is something you will never forget. Consider how she played a man while meeting Antonio in an inn; or her speech where she calls for the end of Thirty Years War: "Spoils, glory, flags, and trumpets! What is behind these high sounding words? Death and destruction!"
John Gilbert also does a good job as Antonio but he, like everyone else, is in the shadow of Greta. I do not know if there were other such good actors or actresses in cinema's history. Perhaps, Romy Schneider... but, indeed, very few people could leave such an unfading trace in cinema.
Queen Christina is my beloved, favorite movie, a piece of high art at multiple levels. More than 70 years have passed since it was released and the movie is still a pleasure to see. It has been a must-have in my family from the time my Grandma was young in the 1930s. The movie really deserves to be released on DVD.
There are movies that you watch and quickly forget.
There are movies that you may like and see them more than once to remember for longer.
Queen Christina is a movie that, having seen once, you will never forget.
With no hesitation 10/10
This is a movie with several good points, but "Queen Christina" is most of
all notable for the outstanding performance by the great Greta Garbo, in a
role that is perfect for her. There are good settings and a good story,
with the rest of the cast also mostly performing well, but Garbo's terrific
performance grabs the viewer's attention and holds it for the entire
The story is very loosely based on the historical Queen Christina, who ruled Sweden in the mid-1600's. The historical character was interesting in her own right, but the movie adds a clandestine love affair with a Spanish ambassador that serves as a catalyst for questions about Christina's identity, duty, and perspective. It's a fine character study that makes ideal material for Garbo, and she is thoroughly convincing when portraying the queen's dilemmas, desires, and decisions. While the historical context is important, many of the things that the queen agonizes over are also timeless concerns, making the portrayal even more memorable. The story itself is also good, with a memorable climax.
This is a fine classic, recommended not only for those who enjoy older films, but also for anyone who can appreciate a great performance by a great actress.
I'm in the middle of "Wednesday Night is Greta Garbo Night" on TCM, and I
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
"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!
Greta Garbo is the controversial "Queen Christina" in this beautiful
1933 film directed by the great Rouben Mamoulian, responsible for the
resplendent 1941 "Blood and Sand" and many other films. Here, Garbo is
reunited with a leading man from silent films, John Gilbert, and the
two are marvelous together. It's so strange now to remember that there
was supposedly something wrong with Gilbert's voice so when talkies
came in, it wrecked his career. Obviously his voice was just fine, and
in this film, he speaks with a classically trained voice and has great
facility for the dialogue. Perhaps it's true that Mayer hated him and
sped up his voice in his sound debut; but most likely, his alcoholism
is what ultimately destroyed his career.
The script takes wild liberties with the real Queen's life, but it makes for excellent entertainment. Queen Christina was educated as a man at her father's directive so she could take over the throne, and she supposedly, as in the film, had some sort of relationship with her lady-in-waiting, Ebba. One site states that Christina abdicated her throne to be with Ebba; however, Ebba had already married and left the court by the time Christina abdicated. After her abdication, she traveled to Rome as a man and steeped herself in culture. Later on, she tried to become Queen of a couple of countries and became involved with a Cardinal, to whom she left her estate when she died at the age of 63.
Here, Christina travels as a man and ends up sharing a room with an envoy of the King of Spain, Don Antonio (Gilbert), who becomes her lover. The bedroom scenes are quite controversial, though no sex is shown. It was thought that Garbo fondling different things in the room as she "memorizes" it was a symbol of her fondling something else - plus there is only bed in the room and the two were obviously in it, though the bed was curtained. And that's as explicit as one got in 1933. The scenes at the inn apparently wiped out any concern for Christina's kissing of Ebba (Elizabeth Young) on the lips earlier!
The acting is superb, particularly from Garbo, Gilbert, and Ian Keith (Magnus). Keith was a little known character actor, yet he was an accomplished stage performer who was very impressive in film - he can be seen as Joan Blondell's drunken husband in "Nightmare Alley." As for Gilbert, what a shame - a wonderful, attractive actor who plays Antonio with great wit and intelligence. He and Garbo made a great team. Garbo is gloriously beautiful, and in a nice touch, walks in the same lumbering way as the actress who plays her as a little girl does. This is the film with possibly the most famous close-up in cinematic history - as Garbo supposedly thinks of "nothing" as she stands on the ship. The camera lingers on her for what seems like forever...yet it is somehow not long enough.
The exciting, final pairing of a great screen team is only enhanced by the subtle touches of Mamoulian and the beautiful cinematography. Don't miss it.
I recently purchased the Greta Garbo DVD collection and the first film
I watched was "Queen Christina". It's the first time I've seen it from
beginning to end and it's a beautiful and haunting film. I'm surprised
by how old it is. It was made in 1933! And yet the film, aside from the
usual dated aspects seen in every movie made then, is remarkably ahead
of its time, certainly in the way it views of a female nobility,
androgyny and homosexuality. It surprising this movie was made, in the
light of the nefarious Hays Code which came into existence just a
couple of years before this film was made.
The cinematography is beautiful. The script, though simplistic in its portrayal of Queen Christina's life (the reason I gave this film one star short of a perfect 10), is full of interesting dialogue, which is endlessly quotable. But the one thing that makes the movie so great is Greta herself. Remove Greta from the movie and not much is left. She makes the movie and what an amazing and haunting performance she gives. Some might find her way of acting a bit much but personally, I think it's something to behold. There's no other actor in the world of cinema like Greta Garbo and this film proves it in spades. Her performance is pitch perfect: she's towering, impossibly beautiful and yet vulnerable and warm as well, which is amazing feat. There are several unforgettable and iconic scenes in "Queen Christina" but the biggest icon is Greta herself. Her overwhelming presence in the movie makes it a thoroughly haunting experience. It's amazing that the folks behind the camera knew what amazing person they were working with and "Queen Christina" is the perfect showcase for this legendary star.
As for the quality of the DVD transfer, it's a shame there isn't a better looking version than this one. The film was filled with scratches and sound problems. Like Lawrence of Arabia or Vertigo, "Queen Christina" needs to be restored to its former glory and re-released on the big screen, so a new generation can discover and appreciate this underrated movie.
Although it is short on fact and large on fiction this beautiful biographical film of Sweden's Queen is a marvelous vehicle on its own, quite aside from containing one of Garbo's finest performances, second only to her Marguerite Gauthier in CAMILLE. She is strong, yet delicate in her portrayal of Christina. There are subtle undertones of lesbian tendencies and her scenes with John Gilbert are pulsating with true feeling for the man, though he is woefully inadequate as an actor opposite her. Her abdication scene is a classic, her movement about the inn room where she and her lover met, touching everything for memory's sake is another classic scene (exceptionally composed and lit) and her final close-up is yet another. This is a solid drama and a solid romance. Overlooked at the time of its release, it is now considered one of her finest films, exceptionally directed by master Rouben Mamoulian. Do not miss this one - a true cinema classic.
I sometimes think that films should be ranked rather like golfers, with a seniors' section for the over 50s. It is often difficult for the inherent quality of a film to shine through the grainy black and white, crackly sound, stagey sets and ludicrous back-projections. One test of a classic film is: if you went and saw it at your local multiplex tonight, would you enjoy it. Maybe Casablanca, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon...and, surprisingly, Queen Christina looking as modern and sexy today as when it was made in 1933. The main thing that makes it stand out from the crowd is its literate and thoughtful screenplay. The subject matter is new to most people who, like myself, have only the sketchiest of knowledge about 17th century Swedish history. Garbo is magnificent as an intelligent, liberated queen. She spends most of the film in men's clothes and thigh-length boots. I'm always rather incredulous of the Shakespearean convention where the heroine only has to put on a pair of trousers and everyone assumes she is a boy. Queen Christina delightfully pokes fun at this convention. Garbo, dressed as a boy, finds that she has to share the last room at the inn with John Gilbert, the Spanish envoy. In a scene that radiates sexiness, Garbo only has to take off her jacket for Gilbert to realise that she is all woman.
Garbo is nothing less than magnificent as Queen Christina, speaking her lines with the power of a Luther or Mark Antony. This film is stunning and a revelation. Lewis Stone and C.Aubrey Smith play her stalwart supporters with their usual competence. The beautiful direction of Mamoulian gives us the memory of the unforgettable visage of Garbo, transcending by far the saccharine looks of most of the modern imposters called stars.Feeling? This movie has it in spades. A crowning achievement in cinema, an unforgettable film.
Few times the face of an actress has been more fascinating that in this movie.With a great and ,sometimes,pictorical direction ,Mamoulian directed Greta Garbo like the great star she was.The movie have a great plot and unforgettable shots.For example,the queen in a dark room,walking like a ghost ,or the final shot with inexpressive Garbo's face.I saw this movie when i was a child and it's one of my favorites.Visual style is like Eisenstein or Griffith movies and the whole movie is the perfect combination of art and great spectacle(this is unusual).I love this movie ,I think is one of the few movies that is really perfect.A truly masterpiece for all times.
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