Queen Christina (1933) Review

Queen Christina (1933) Director: Rouben Mamoulian


Starring the famous Greta Garbo, Queen Christina is a historical biopic (albeit riddled with inaccuracies) which recounts the story of Queen Christina of Sweden in the 17th Century. Christina assumed the role of Queen after the death of her father, but preferred the educated life of a scholar. Amidst pressures from her people to marry a man and produce an heir, Christina resigned at age 28 and lived out the rest of her life in exile. She was an unkempt intellectual who preferred the conversations of men to those of women, and she was almost certainly a lesbian, or at least bisexual.

In many ways the part is perfect for the reclusive and sexually ambiguous Greta Garbo. Though she was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s, she only starred in a handful of films before retiring to an apartment in New York City where she lived the rest of her life as a recluse. She never married, never had children, and is rumored to have had numerous liaisons with both men and women. In the film, Queen Christina assumes the role of Queen at age 6 when her father dies during the Thirty Years War. She has a subtle romantic relationship with one of her ladies in waiting and faces mounting pressure to marry a Swedish suitor and produce an heir, her first cousin. However she rejects the whole idea and goes on a trip disguised and dressed as a man. She stays at a hotel and is forced to share a bed with a Spanish gentleman, Don Antonio, with whom she falls in love. They become snowed in and stay together for three days during which there is a powerful scene in which Christina silently walks about their room touching all of the furniture and artwork hoping not to forget a moment of it. In the end, she abdicates her throne so they may be together, however her former suitor challenges Antonio to a duel and kills him. He dies in her arms. Christina flees Sweden on a ship to live out her days in his promised coastal Spanish villa.

Garbo had insisted on one of her lovers, John Gilbert, to play her counterpart. They were even engaged at one point. She was fascinated with the story of the historical Christina and she was age 28 during filming, the same age as the real Queen Christina. It was Garbo’s first film in a year and a half, as she took a respite from film-making on holiday in Sweden.

Queen Christina is an excellent film, however the whole allure and ethos of the film revolves around Greta Garbo and her captivating performance. Without her the film would likely be forgettable.

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