Already rendered memorably on celluloid by the inimitable Greta Garbo, Queen Christina of Sweden was an intelligent, androgynous woman who was ahead of her time. A 17th century heroine who’s more 2015 than 1933.
In “The Girl King,” noted Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki and writer Michel Marc Bouchard give the queen her modern-day due. With a fiery and impassioned performance from the lion-like Swedish actress Malin Buska as Christina, the film focuses on her refusal to conform to norms — gender, religious, political and philosophical.
Trained and educated as a royal from a young age, it’s no wonder that the young queen questioned what was traditionally expected of her, and “The Girl King” captures that sharp and defiant spirit. Whereas Garbo romanced John Gilbert on screen in “Queen Christina,” this film explores the intimate — and sexual — companionship between Christina and her lady-in-waiting, Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon). Taking heed of the words of her scholarly mentor and philosophical hero René Descartes (Patrick Bauchau), Christina believes that she must discard the ideas she was taught to achieve truth. The film follows the process of the young queen creating her own system of beliefs, based on her intellectual curiosities and corporeal desires.
The film itself is a minor vehicle to deliver Buska’s ferocious performance, with sterile production design lacking in authenticity and rather flat and uninspired direction. The greatest appeal of “The Girl King” lies in the fascinating historical character and the formidable actress portraying her.
“The Girl King.”
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West L.A.