A few days ago I watched my first Greta Garbo film, Queen Christina. I wanted to watch it after re-watching The Dreamers, which features a scene with Garbo and the leading man, John Gilbert. I didn’t know much about Greta Garbo. Just that she was beautiful, Swedish and possibly a lesbian. After seeing this film I don’t think I’ll ever know much more about her. She retains mystery even when giving an emotional performance. I feel like this film is a reflection of the real Garbo. I read that due to her fame she had gained more control over the films she starred in. For example, she choose Gilbert as her co-star despite (or because of) his failing career.
Queen Christina is a strong, dare I say feminist, character. She is alone at the top and escapes the watchful eyes of her people by leaving the palace dressed as a man. Inside the palace, she has strong ideas of what she wants and will only compromise if it’s in everyone’s best interests. She educates herself at night by reading. She’s really the perfect ruler; smart, strong and full of humility.
Although Garbo was trying to do Gilbert a favour by having him cast in the male lead, she rather overshadows him. Her face is captivating and she stands out as being the only Swedish person in the film to have a Swedish accent! I don’t think I would have liked this film without her swaggering, masculine charm. What is funny, however, is that as she is pretending to be a man, Garbo has a full face of heavy make-up, yet none of the characters apparantly realise she’s female until she undresses. Ah, the magic of film!
The film took some liberties with the life of the real Queen Christina. However, she was indeed crowned king instead of queen as her official title and never married, leading to Garbo’s head-strong and independent character. In conclusion this is an awesome film and pretty impressive for an early talkie.
Chancellor: But your Majesty, you cannot die an old maid.
Queen Christina: I have no intention to, Chancellor. I shall die a bachelor!