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Friday, December 4, 2015

The Girl King: The Real Queen Christina

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2015 at 11:30 AM

  • Wolfe Video
Mika Kaurismaki's new film The Girl King might surprise viewers who are familiar with Queen Christina, the 1933 historical drama starring Hollywood legend Greta Garbo. The highly romanticized Garbo film presents the young 17th-century Swedish queen as a heterosexual in love with a Spanish envoy, who was played by John Gilbert, Garbo's real-life partner. Completely ignored in 1933 was the fact that the Queen was a lesbian. The Girl King tells the rest of the Queen's story.

The Girl King
is a sumptuous visual feast that transports its viewers back to the days of Christina's reign. Kaurismaki's camera glides effortlessly through castle halls, across wintry landscapes, and into the soul of the lead character. The film paints an accurate portrait of Christina's love for art and literature, and of her determination to lead her people to peace after the devastating Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants. Some of these themes were touched upon in the Garbo film, and Garbo, one of the most mesmerizing stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, gave a wonderful performance in her version of the story.

But the love story between the Queen and her Spanish lover was fabricated for Queen Christina. 

In The Girl King, the Queen (Malin Buska) turns down a marriage proposal fairly early in the film. Christina's eyes gaze lovingly upon Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon), the fiance to one of her noblemen. That love is reciprocated, and the story of these two women becomes the heart of The Girl King. 

The film lets viewers know how ahead of her time the youthful queen was. A feminist by any definition of the word, Christina walks to the beat of her own drum. She wears men's clothing and engages in sword fights. She doesn't care what her advisers think. She's incapable of being anyone other than who her heart tells her she must be.

"It was fantastic to take her inside of me and to be her," Buska said. "And to do this part after Greta Garbo."

Buska added that she had read some of Christina's actual diaries. "I walked around the streets that she walked around and visited places that she lived in," she said, as she described her preparation for the role. "

Both the actress and her director felt felt that it was important to tell Christina's whole story, including the aspects of her life that were ignored by MGM during the more conservative 1930s.

"I wanted to create a modern and rebellious figure not a conventional period piece," Kaurismaki said. "Christina wanted to stop wars and bring art and culture to the people. Christina's ideas were shocking to the older ruling class. They want to keep their power." 

Greta Garbo, the filmmaker reports, wanted to portray a more accurate portrayal of Christina. "We found out that Garbo wanted to make a different film," he said. "She wanted to do the love story between the two women. But Hollywood of the 1930s was not ready for that. So they did a conventional love story between a man and a woman. I think the film we made is the film that Garbo wanted to make."

The Girl King opens today at the Lark Theater in Larkspur and the Camera 3 in San Jose.              

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