A film about a Swedish queen, directed by a Finnish filmmaker, and performed in English. That’s Mika Kaurismaki’s THE GIRL KING, the story of Queen Christina, an 18th-century monarch, raised as a boy, who fell in love with her lady-in-waiting, and abdicated her throne in order to convert to Catholicism and live a more satisfying life in Rome. This is not the Greta Garbo version of the story, though when I spoke with Kaurismaki by phone on November 20, 2015, I was surprised to discover that Garbo herself wanted Rouben Mamoulian’s 1933 film, QUEEN CHRISTINA, to be more historically accurate, including the same-sex affair. We also discussed why English was the language of choice for his film, infusing the story with philosophical musings, and why Malin Buska was the perfect choice to play the legendary monarch. We started, though, by talking about how, when it comes to politics, some things never change
THE GIRL KING’s Sweden is a backwater of Europe, engaged in wars that make some wealthy, and torn by religious turmoil as Protestant Sweden resists the Catholic Church’s counter-reformation. Christina, the sole heir to the throne, was given a boy’s education, including martial arts and philosophy, making her one of the Enlightenment’s leading lights. Her determination to bring her country into the modern world, as well as her flirtation with Catholicism, and her passionate love for another woman, made being true to herself while also ruling her country virtually impossible. When she walked away, she became the stuff of legend, and one of the few women of her time to live life entirely on her own terms. Malin Buska gives a passionate, steely performance as Christina, both as a woman and a stateswoman, as she discovers her sexuality and copes with a court that can’t, or won’t, grasp her vision for a better way of life. Kaurismaki directed from a script by Michel Marc Buchard. It co-stars Sarah Gadon, Michael Nyquist, Lucas Bryant, Hippolyte Giradot, and Patrick Bauchau as Rene Descartes.