Queen Christina, who ruled Sweden from 1632 to 1654, was an outspoken, intelligent and ephemeral monarch who defied the conventions of her era, in both religious and secular realms. She refused to marry, was unconventional and masculine in her lifestyle, abdicated her throne and moved to Rome where she embraced Catholicism and was the guest of five successive Popes.
Her rebellion against the mores of the time, her interest in philosophy and the arts, and her rejection of the traditional female role has made her a popular subject in film and literature, including the notable performance by Greta Garbo in the 1930s film Queen Christina and later by Liv Ulmann in The Abication.
Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki is the latest to tackle the subject in The Girl King, which portrays Christina as a powerful and uncompromising feminist and lesbian. The film, which is handsomely photographed by Guy Dufaux and features lovely sets and costumes that capture the feel of medieval Sweden, is unfortunately saddled with a leaden and plodding script. The multinational cast struggles mightily through a clunky English-language translation of a French script by Michel Marc Bouchard.
Swedish actress Malin Buska manages to overcome the cumbersome dialogue to deliver a solid performance as Christina, but the entire proceeding is weighed down by the shortcomings of the script -- or more precisely the ham-fisted translation. Perhaps the actors might have found it more natural to perform in their own language -- and the film itself might have been more credible to English-speaking audiences with subtitles. But with tinny dialogue that handcuffs the actors, the film strains credulity, and even strays into unintended camp. A noble effort sabotaged by a flawed script.