Review: The Girl King

Malin Buska as Kristina, Queen of Sweden, in The Girl King

Malin Buska stars as Kristina, Queen of Sweden, in The Girl King. I found it an uplifting story about love and power and being true to yourself. It didn’t have a romantically happy ending, but no lesbians died in the telling of the story. That’s a good thing.

Spoilers ahead.

Michael Nyqvist
Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna was Kristina’s substitute father and most powerful adviser.

Kristina was queen from age six. She was raised like a prince with books, intellectual freedom, and weapons training. Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna (Michael Nyqvist) stepped in to take her dead father’s place and became her most trusted adviser.

She was crowned queen at age 18 in 1644.  She declared that Sweden would promote schools, libraries and theaters and seek peace in the war between Protestants and Catholics that raged over all of Europe at the time. Kristina was a brilliant woman and far ahead of her time.

Sarah Gadon and Malin Buska

After her coronation, she was introduced to her new Lady in Waiting, Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon). She immediately fell in love with the Countess, whom she called Belle.

Kristina was obsessed with the writing of René Descartes (Patrick Bauchau) and wrote him letters asking what love was and how to get rid of the longing. He answered, in fact he wrote an entire book for her. He even came to Sweden to instruct her in philosophy and science.

Kristina used her power to bring books in many languages, art, and scientific learning to Sweden. In spite of the joy she took in learning and culture, her desire for the beautiful Lady in Waiting grew more and more intense.

Malin Buska

There were longing looks between Kristina and Belle. They seemed to share an attraction but had no way to express it. Kristina finally conceived the idea that Belle could be her “bed companion.” The job of a bed companion is to warm the monarch’s bed. Kristina ordered Belle into her bed.

Malin Buska kisses Sarah Gadon on the cheek

Kristina pressed her first awkward kisses on Belle. Belle knew better what to do with kisses and returned them with enthusiasm.

The suitors who wanted to marry Kristina as well as her Chancellor took note of Kristina’s behavior. The process of attempting to make her act and look more feminine began, as well as the injunctions from her advisers and her rather horrid mother to marry and produce an heir.

Malin Buska and Sarah Gadon kiss on a large Bible
Two things excited Queen Kristina. Rare, fascinating books and the beautiful Belle.

Kristina ignored them all. She continued to dress in pants and male apparel. Her relationship with Belle grew more and more overt.

Finally Belle was snatched away. Belle was subjected to 17th Century Swedish mansplaining about acceptable Christian behavior and told that she’d better shape up. Word got out that Kristina was a scandal, not a proper Christian lady. An assassination attempt was made on her.

Kristina mourned the loss of Belle even as forces pulled at her within her own country and in the war between Protestants and Catholics.

Sarah Gadon and François Arnaud
“I’m gonna marry this guy because we will make beautiful babies. Or whatever it was I was told to say.”

Kristina wouldn’t eat or sleep. When she finally saw Belle again, Kristina was on her horse in the woods. She fell to the snow from exhaustion. Belle roused her and then told her she was going to marry Gustav (François Arnaud).

Kristina went a bit crazy at their wedding. She interrupted the wedding and then walked outside to jump in a freezing river wearing a heavy cape. It’s a wonder they got her out.

Everywhere was pressure on her to denounce Luther and become Catholic, or stay Protestant and avoid a war in Sweden. And, by damn, get married and produce and heir. She refused to marry.

After 10 years on the throne, she declared her cousin to be her son and heir to the throne. She gave up her crown, paid a middle of the night call on Belle as a farewell, and went to Rome. She became a Catholic. She lived there for many years at the center of literary society and founded the Academy of Arcadia. Although she returned to Sweden several times, she never ruled that country again. She died at age 62 and is buried in the Vatican.

She apparently had several other lesbian relationships in her life. If Wikipedia is accurate, her first love affair with Belle may not exactly be the reason she  gave up her monarchy, but it plays as a beautiful story in the film.

A book from Descarte.
Who are all these men circling around Queen Kristina?

The Girl King is an hour and 46 minutes long. It didn’t drag, despite the length. I confess I had trouble figuring out who all the characters around Kristina were. There were many men – counselors, ambassadors, bishops, suitors – and sometimes I wasn’t sure who they were. It wasn’t clear to me if the men plotting against her were Protestant or Catholic. The music was operatically Swedish and distracting at times.

I recommend The Girl King as a beautiful tale of first love. If you see it on that basis, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re looking for history, I’m not sure this movie will satisfy you unless you already know Swedish history quite well.

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