The Girl King

Coming out of this film, I felt a little cheated. Perhaps I expected too much from it. It was the last film of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival that I saw and although it had many nicely framed shots and sumptuous costumes, the acting seems very stilted, ill managed and bordering in several places on melodrama.

I suppose it also didn’t help that I know the story of Queen Christina fairly intimately, having studied her and the Swedish imperialism of her Protestant father at university.

The Girl King by Mr. Kaurismaki (not Aki) is I suppose an attempt to give voice to a feminist interpretation of the seventeenth century Swedish queen, who like her French counterpart the famous Sun King, inherited her throne at an age before she could talk let alone walk. If it is through the empowering feminist and queer lens with which Mr. Kaurismaki tried to use, he has failed. This film is about as empowering as a history power point presentation (I have sat through several, so can attest to the sheer numbing quality of them). Perhaps it was always to be a failure, in comparison to the icy elegance and quiet regality of Queen Christina which made Greta Garbo; this lacks all of that ‘real’ tension and forthright will.

An English-language co-production between Finland, Sweden, Canada and Germany, which might perhaps be why the overall effect of the film is stilted and trying to go in several different directions simultaneously – lesbian love story, 17th century tom-boyish transvestism, the old Catholic against Protestant, scholar verses solider paradigm.

Further, the real story of Christina is so verdant with tension, plots, epic scenes of betrayal, love and loss that it could have been used to such a greater extent in this film, which had such promise. Her life is one of the most fascinating in royal history, but here plays out like a petty telemovie. The original script by Mr. Bouchard (which was written in that language of passion – French) first ran, unsurprisingly, as a play at Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde only to be translated into jarring English by Miss Gaboriau for the screen.

There were rumours that our own Mr. Christopher Doyle, the acclaimed cinematographer would be composing the shots, although, Mr. Dufaux does an admirable job one can’t help but wonder how much more visually rich and intriguing it would have been with Mr. Doyle behind the camera. The colourful, wonderfully made costumes are one of the few highlights rich in detail, a liberal use of sequins and vibrant colours all designed by Miss Nissinen are most welcoming against the bleak and icy backdrop of the film.

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