wed 27/01/2021

DVD: The Girl King | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Girl King

DVD: The Girl King

Mika Kaurismäki’s biopic of the mould-breaking Swedish Queen Christina is an offbeat misfire

The stylish Queen Christina (Malin Buska, right) shares a moment with Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon) in ‘The Girl King’

The story of Queen Christina Vasa of Sweden has been told in opera, novels and on stage. It was first addressed by cinema in 1933 when Greta Garbo played the title role in Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina. Liv Ullmann then took the part in 1974’s The Abdication.

The story of Queen Christina Vasa of Sweden has been told in opera, novels and on stage. It was first addressed by cinema in 1933 when Greta Garbo played the title role in Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina. Liv Ullmann then took the part in 1974’s The Abdication.

The reasons for the persistent attraction to the story are clear. Christina was six when her father King Gustav II Adolph was killed in battle in 1632. Queen at 18, she studied voraciously and wanted knowledge and literacy for all. In thrall to the ideas of Descartes, she brought him to Sweden. She did not obediently accept Lutheranism and questioned all that came before her. Choosing not to marry, she is seen as a feminist and supposedly dressed in a man-like way. It has been inferred that she was a lesbian. In 1654, she abdicated after having embraced Catholicism. It’s a brave director who chooses to bring this endlessly malleable tale to the screen again. Mika Kaurismäki’s The Girl King has a lot to live up to.

Although initiated in Canada, this multi-national production feels as though too many of those involved have had a say, as it falls between many stools: lush period drama with glutinous music, half-way house bodice ripper, intrigue-filled thriller, exploration of the tensions between duty and personal desires, and an examination of forbidden love. It beggars belief that a woman depicted as this strong and self-aware would also be so injudicious. But in this fictive world, desire can derail anything.

As Christina, Malin Buska carries the part off despite delivering many of her lines as if reading from a shopping list. She wears some fantastic outfits which would have scored her the cover spot of a 1969 issue of Nova magazine. Sarah Gadon is less sturdy as Countess Ebba Sparre, the wafer-thin object of her affection who seems solely there to illustrate the nature of Christina’s sexuality. This is a misfire, but compelling viewing. Unfortunately, the how and whys of the offbeat The Girl KIng remain a mystery as the home cinema release has no extras.

In the fictive world of 'The Girl King', desire can derail anything

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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