Take a Sip: every time men lose their wits over Christina
Take a Sip: every time Christina and Ebba make awkward eye contact
Take a Sip: for every book that Christina owns that gets mentioned
Take a Sip: for every mention of Christina’s father
By: The Cinephiliac (Three Beers) –
Once upon a time there was a princess whose father died, leaving her with the immeasurable responsibility of running a kingdom. That princess was Christina, and that kingdom was Sweden in 1632. In Mika Kaurismäki’s lofty period piece, The Girl King, Christina’s unusual life and her powerful story are exhibited through key moments in her reign on the throne. The history of the tale that unfolds is beyond fascinating as well as enlightening. Sweden is known for many things: cheap, do-it-yourself furniture, horse-ground meatballs, fantastic pop music, UV lights in winter, and that one time it was led by a woman who promoted ideals of peace and intellectual freedom. Christina has remained a prominent figure in society due to her larger than life persona that broke apart gender stereotypes and political restraints during a war-torn time of conservatism.
Peter, Bjorn and John, Little Dragon, Jose Gonzalez, and Ace of Base ain’t got nothing on Sweden’s best, ABBA.
Kaurismäki possesses an extraordinary talent for bringing the history of the time period to life and he doesn’t do it alone. The team by his side throughout The Girl King helps center the film and flesh out the visual cues on screen, complete with grandiose, high-key lighting that brings about a bright, Scandinavian aesthetic of the period to the screen. Swedish fashion of the 1600’s seems simple in its extravagance, a feat owed to the impressive costume design team, which, according to Kaurismäki, utilized artists and students to recreate the era’s fashion from scratch as no outfits from the time were at their disposal. The Girl King has a near impeccable mis-en-scene that embodies both realism and fantastical elements. The history of the time period truly comes alive when detailed in scenes that show which foods were available in the region and how royalty kept their beds warm.
While the story is impressive in its uniqueness, its focus on Christina’s love life falls flat, resulting in sagging momentum. Several elements within Christina’s life get a quick glimpse of exploration; her teacher/student relationship with Rene Descartes, her obsession with books and learning, her conflicting religious experiences during a climate of Lutheran beliefs, her love affair with her lady in waiting. Together all of these elements are compacted into an hour and half long film. Christina’s life gets rushed through without audiences ever truly getting to examine and digest one aspect in detail.
Spoken like a true philosopher.
Mulin Buska does a great job embodying the sensual femininity and fierce masculinity that Christina purportedly possessed. Buska’s performance hints at her possible range, but feels subdued throughout the film, as do most of the performances, leading to one of the weakest elements of the film. Though The Girl King is a period piece, its performances come off a bit underwhelming and theatrical.
The Girl King is a fascinating tale of an even more fascinating woman at an interesting time in world history. Kaurismäki is able to portray Christina as a lone warrior woman whose courage and individuality still serve as an inspiration to women even today. Christina was courageous, intelligent, and curious, three things that are finally and dutifully becoming associated with more women each day. The film itself is a bit rough around the edges in its dramatic flair and amateur theatrics, but the topic it focuses on is an impressive one that stands the test of time.