Queen Christina (1933) A-
One of Garbo’s best and most admired films, “Queen Christina” has withstood the test of time as a definitive classic featuring the Divine in her glorious beauty.
Lavish and luxurious, but not ostentatiously so, “Queen Christina” unfolds as a melodrama about a the 17th-century Swedish monarch, who feels she can best function in a male-dominated world by adopting men’s clothes and attitudes.
Much ahead of their time, the film’s sexual politics and cross-dressing element have added a richer subtext, making the film a must-see for gay and lesbian viewers.
Christina is a decisive but sensitive queen, ruling Sweden with wisdom and compassion. Fiercely devoted to her country and the welfare of her people, Christina has long since abandoned all thoughts of pursuing any kind of a romance.
Former lover Magnus (Keith) tries to arrange a marriage between Christina and a dashing prince, but she rejects political unions.
However, she changes her mind upon meeting the Spanish envoy Antonio, Don Antonio de la Prada (John Gilbert, one of Garbo’s offscreen male lovers).
After a magical night together, Christina and Antonio are compelled to part, and the Queen vows to relinquish her throne in favor of marriage to the envoy.
But the political machinations and intrigues between the two countries work against the union of the two lovers, leaving Christina alone in the world.
Garbo gives a brilliant, emotionally touching performance, transcending the particular time and place in which it is contained.
There’s strong chemistry between Garbo and Gilbert, who were real-life lovers for a few years.
Viewers remember fondly the scene wherein Christina, after consummating their passion, walks dreamily around their room, touching and memorizing every detail and element.
In one of the most “talked about” scenes in film history, Garbo, in male attire, kissing Countess Ebba Sparre (Elizabeth Young) on the lips.
Equally memorable is the final shot of Garbo staring on a boat, enigmatically past the camera, allowing the viewer to “fill in” her thoughts. Director Rouben Mamoulian claimed that he ordered Garbo to think about “absolutely nothing.”
This particular shot has been imitated by many directors, most recently by Tarantino in the 1997 “Jackie Brown,” in a long, silent scene depicting Pam Grier staring enigmatically while driving.
Several of Garbo’s films and performances have dated badly, but not this strange and truly magical picture. ”Queen Christina” remains poignant, timely and enjoyable decades after being made.
One of the highest paid actresses at the time, Garbo received $250,000 for this movie, and insisted on having final choice of director, cinematographer, and leading man.
Liv Ullmann played Queen Christina in the inferior “The Abdication,” in 1974, co-starring Peter Finch as the Roman Catholic Cardinal.
Running time: 101 Minutes.
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Screenplay by S.N. Behrman, H.M. Harwood
Greta Garbo as Queen Christina
John Gilbert as Don Antonio de la Prada
Ian Keith as Count Magnus
Lewis Stone as Chancellor Axel
Elisabeth Young as Countess Ebba
C. Aubrey Smith as Aage
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