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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Queen Christina (released in 1933) - Starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith and Lewis Stone

This movie is loosely based on the life and times of the Swedish queen Christina. It was an American precode film staring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert and is directed by Edward Mamoulian.
After her father King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is killed in battle, six year old Christina enters the throne. She accepts the throne as a king of Sweden and is guided by chancellor Oxenstierna. Although in her younger days she support the war efforts, she soon estranges herself from the courtiers by denouncing the war effort. She tells everybody her decision to negotiate peace for her people. Chancellor Oxenstierna exhorts her to marry the war hero prince Palatine Charles Gustavus and do her royal duty of producing an heir. But Christina refuses to marry without love. She flirts with Count Magnus, her handsome treasury secretary. Magnus is ambitious and jealously guards her affections. Soon tiring out of Magnus's possessive nature Christina rides out disguised as a man to the countryside.
Here she encounters an overturned carriage of the Spanish ambassador, Antonio and she helps them to move the carriage. Antonio takes her to be a country man and coolly murmurs his thanks and rides off. But they meet again at the inn and still mistaking her for a man, Antonio engages her in a lively discussion.

Amused by her intelligence and wit Antonio offers to share his room and Christina accepts. But in the confines of the room Christina reveals her true self and Antonio takes her in to his arms. Soon the lovers spend a gay weekend at the inn immersed in themselves and Antonio returns to court after promising his return to the inn.
Christina also returns to court and is confronted by a jealous Magnus. But she rebuffs him and dresses herself as an angel for the presentation ceremony by the Spanish Ambassador. Antonio is surprised to see her as the queen and accuses her of playing with his emotions. But he presents her with his kings portrait and a marriage proposal which she accepts. She spends time with Antonio which enrages Magnus. He spreads rumors of her scandalous conduct and is confronted by an angry mob. After ordering Antonio back to Spain she confronts Magnus and dismisses him off her affections.
She calls on Oxenstierna to confer about her future and informs the heart broken court of her decision to abdicate. She installs another king and plans to meet Antonio at their inn. But Magnus challenges Antonio to a duel and fatally wounds him by treachery. When Christina reaches him, Antonio dies in her arms. Even in her grief Christina realizes that she had found love and resolves to sail to Spain to see her beloveds castle by the sea.
This movie had won the Mussolini cup at he Venice film festival and marks Greta Garbo's return to cinema after a eighteen month long hiatus. The film was well received by all the contemporary film critics. The highlight of the film is its direction where light and shadow is used to create each frame, a work of art. The last scene of Christina returning home is one of the most beautiful movie frames in the history of cinema. Even though a fictionalized account, this movie is a well made film with believable characters.

Queen Christina (released in 1933) - Starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith and Lewis Stone

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