Synopsis by Hal Erickson
If Queen Christina is not the best of Greta Garbo's films (as many Garbo fanatics insist), it is certainly the most luxuriously romantic of her talkie features. The star is cast as 17th-century Swedish queen Christina, who feels that she can best function in a male-dominated world by adopting men's clothes and attitudes (this cross-dressing element adds a subliminally gay subtext which curiously makes the subsequent events all the more poignant). Fiercely devoted to her country and the welfare of her people, Christina has long since abandoned all thoughts of pursuing any kind of a romance -- but changes her mind when she meets and falls in love with Spanish envoy Antonio (John Gilbert). After an idyllic night together, Christina and Antonio are compelled to part, but the Queen vows then and there to relinquish her throne in favor of marriage to the envoy. Alas, the complex political machinations between their two countries permanently separate the two lovers, leaving Christina more alone in the world than ever. The chemistry between Garbo and Gilbert -- who as the whole world knew in 1933 had once been real-life lovers -- is positively mesmerizing, especially in the classic scene wherein Christina, after consummating their passion, walks dreamily around their room, touching and memorizing every detail (so persuasive is her pantomime in this scene that her last-minute explanation as to what she is doing is not only unnecessary, but downright jarring). Equally unforgettable is the final shot of Garbo staring enigmatically past the camera, allowing the viewer to "fill in" her thoughts (director Rouben Mamoulian always claimed that he ordered Garbo to think about "absolutely nothing," but one wonders). While some of Garbo's earliest talkies tend to creak a bit, Queen Christina is as fascinating today as it was nearly seven decades ago, and will undoubtedly continue to remain just as fascinating for the next seven decades.
queen [royalty], romance, aristocracy, cross-dressing, love, royalty, conflict, diplomat, abdication [of power], history, scandal
High Historical Importance, High Production Values