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Kit Le Fever
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Though not as regal and alluring as Greta Garbo in her heavily fictionalized biography Queen Christina, Liv Ullmann gives us a different Christina. In The Abdication Liv Ullmann gives us a woman who is seized by her new religion, but her new religion doesn't know quite what to make of her.
It's 1655 and this film kind of takes off where Garbo's Queen Christina ended. Liv's already abdicated and she's arrived at the Papal Court, traveling incognito with only her former dwarf jester Michael Dunn accompanying her.
Eager and willing she arrives saying she's to be a servant of Roman Catholicism. Maybe in the next couple of centuries she would have been welcomed no questions asked. But this was the 17th century the age of the Reformation and Counter Reformation. Religion and politics blended so well in Europe the line was almost erased.
We have to examine her to see if her conversion is sincere. So a dying Pope appoints Cardinal Decio Azzolini played by Peter Finch as a committee of one to examine her as to the truthfulness of her conversion.
There have been many rumors about Queen Christina down the centuries. Her father Gustavus Adolphus brought her up as a ruling monarch to be meaning that a lot of what was considered strictly masculine in those times was open to her. She was educated and also learned the arts of war. Rumors then and now have said she was a lesbian.
But other rumors have her and Cardinal Azzolini as lovers and these are the rumors dealt with here. Finch talks a lot about his temptations in those directions as well. Celibacy is a mighty taskmaster and then and now discreetly not followed.
A lot of the scenes between Ullmann and Finch are what drags this film down somewhat. Just a lot blabbering dialog about religion. Some of the best scenes are the flashbacks that Ullmann narrates about her life. Cyril Cusack as Count Oxenstierna who ruled Sweden in her minority turns in a memorable performance.
The atmosphere of 17th century Rome specifically the Vatican was well done also. The Abdication ain't good history, but passably good drama.
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