- Not Rated
- Run Time
- 1 hour 46 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- 1 / 10
- 2 / 10
- Sex / Nudity
- 5 / 10
- Star Rating
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Before watching director Mika Kaurismäki’s film about all that I knew about the 18th century Swedish female monarch is that Greta Garbo played her in the 1933 film Queen Christina. From the 15 minute or so minutes of the film that I’ve been able to see from various clips posted on You Tube, it is obvious that Hollywood distorted her history by inserting a fictional romance between her and the Spanish ambassador to her court, Antonio (John Gilbert), although it does show her wearing men’s clothing most of the time, and even kissing one of her maids in waiting on the mouth.
There is no ambiguity in the current film about Queen Kristina’s sexual orientation in the new film, though she does keep her people in ignorance of her attachment to Countess Ebba Sparre (Sara Gadon). And she is under pressure from her dour Lutheran Chancellor Johan Oxenstiernato (Michael Nygvist) to marry so that she can produce a son for the good of the country.
Having been raised by her father King Gustav as a prince—she had been taught how to fence, ride horseback, read philosophy, appreciate fine art and music, and wear masculine clothing because she appeared to be a male at her birth–she maintained her love for books and learning. When her father dies as a result of battle in 1632, she becomes the ruler when she is 6, the ceremony actually designating her as “king.” Overseen by Chancellor Oxenstiernato during her childhood, she assumes control at the age of 18, determining to make Sweden the intellectual capital of Europe. She corresponds with the learned humanist René Descartes (Patrick Bauchau), inviting him to move to Stockholm, which he does. We see something of her character when she greets him upon his late arrival, “By Christ’s balls! I hate to be kept waiting…” She bridles at the strictness of her Lutheran advisers, especially as exemplified by Chancellor Oxenstiernato.
Contrary to the 1933 film the Queen is not popular with her people and advisers, who complain of the high taxes she imposes to maintain her extravagant life style. In one scene she speaks of her huge library, “Et voilà! The humanists are here by the door. the stoics by the windows and the library of the humanist Grotius will arrive soon. Can you imagine? Forty-eight cartloads of books!” She is far more interested in her books than her people.
Kristina’s nobles are also very worried French Ambassador Pierre Hector Chanut (Hippolyte Girardot) will seduce her away from Lutheranism to his Catholic faith. As matters turn out, their fears are well justified. What Kristina does when backed into a corner was unprecedented, and when we see her riding off at the end, she is but 28 years old with still over three decades of life ahead of her. She spent time in Holland, Rome, and France in various intrigues. Her last days in Rome where she became the friend of popes and protector of artists would in themselves make an interesting film. Much has been made about Mika Kaurismäki turning Queen Kristina into a modern woman. However, from what can ascertained from history, she did not need to resort to many anachronisms. Some will be put off by her sexual preference, as they might by a cold dish of macaroni and cheese, but others might react to the film as the Queen does to a serving of hunter’s stew, “By the rusty nails of Christ’s cross, this is delicious!”
Available on Netflix.
This review will be in the March issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.