Queen Christina (1933)
September 1, 2015 10:04 AM - Subscribe

Queen Christina of Sweden is a popular monarch who is loyal to her country. However, when she falls in love with a Spanish envoy, she must choose between the throne and the man she loves.

"There are few movies as sensuous as Queen Christina," writes Danny at Precode.com:
"I’ve been writing this site for a while, and I want to offer my readers some advice: see Queen Christina in a movie theater. In a nice, lush theater with a willing crowd. It is one of the best experiences you will ever have. And I don’t just say this because I’ve done it myself, but because it’s a movie that’s built to be larger than life. A weird sort of epic not built on battles between armies but that ensconced within a woman’s soul."
From AMC Filmsite:
"The biopic of independent-minded, controversial Christina, queen of 17th century Sweden, paired Garbo with popular silent-screen actor John Gilbert (her former fiancee and co-star was also purported to have been her passionate, off-screen lover). Although Gilbert's career star was fading, Garbo insisted that he play the male lead role (although Laurence Olivier had been the original choice). The plot, ending with the Queen's abdication from her kingdom and self-imposed exile and withdrawal (for the ill-fated love of a Spanish nobleman-envoy), in order to follow her heart to Spain (to return her slain lover to his homeland), prophetically echoed the same sort of conflict that Garbo struggled with in her private life.

"It was Garbo's first film in a year and a half. Her long absence from the screen and residence in her native Sweden were being interpreted as a retreat from cinema altogether. [She gave up film-making eight years later in 1941.] And Gilbert, who had been relegated to second-class status following the advent of the talkies, starred in only one other film (in 1934) before his 1936 death."
Much has been written about the epic final shot; Mamoulian famously told Garbo to not blink and to think about nothing, to make her mind a blank sheet of paper. Back to Danny at Precode.com for his analysis:
"What does the future hold for Christina? The beauty of it is that Garbo’s expressionless face invites you to interpret it as you want.

"Some see this moment as a void. Christina stares outward from the prow, and we don’t follow her gaze– a sign that her future has disappeared without Antonio or her title. I tend to take the more optimistic route, seeing this as Christina’s first few moments without any of her many masks on. A reckoning, if you will, with the freedom that her love for Antonio has given her as well as an uncertain but an open future offered.

"But, of course, thanks to the way the final shot plays out, the ambiguity never tips from the cup being half full to the cup being half empty. It’s forever etched in that uncomfortable middle, something for audiences to read their own desires into."
Sadly, John Gilbert is almost completely forgotten, except as a footnote in his association with Greta Garbo. More information on John Gilbert at Obscure Hollywood.

Film Trailer
'Memorizing this room' scene
More about how that final shot was technically possible.

"I'm tired of being a symbol, Chancellor — I long to be a human being."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(More accurately, Mamoulian suggested that Garbo avoid blinking - she does visibly blink during the scene.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:08 AM on September 1, 2015

My great aunt Barbara Barondess is the barmaid who tells an in drag Garbo that her room's down the hall.
posted by brujita at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

A scene or two from this film is in the documentary The Celluloid Closet for its lesbian subtext.
posted by chaiminda at 5:44 PM on September 1, 2015

A great film, and Garbo's best role. Possibly the first feminist film.
posted by Mothlight at 12:04 PM on September 2, 2015

I adore not only all of the genderqueer subtext during the incognito lodge portion of the film but also the general feminist tenor -- and the ending, when she gets on the goddam ship anyway, and just stares straight ahead into the future, makes me bawl like pretty much nothing else.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

the ending, when she gets on the goddam ship anyway, and just stares straight ahead into the future, makes me bawl like pretty much nothing else.

So fucking good.
posted by Mothlight at 7:40 PM on September 4, 2015

This film is a lot more campy (the pomp of the feudal interactions, the slapstick of the inn, the melodramatic romance) than I expected, and a definite change of pace from the previous two films. I'm still unsure how to feel about Garbo... her accent and mannerisms in the performance strike me as odd.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2015

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