‘The Girl King’ in review

Film focuses on the life of Queen Christina of Sweden and puts the spotlight on the gender issues she faced during her dynasty

More stories from Sadie Sedlmayr



Mika Kaurismäki’s “The Girl King” paints a portrait of gender role stereotypes in the 1630s as well as the advantages and disadvantages of being born a girl into a royal family.

The 2015 drama film is a schematic vision of the scandalous, controversial regime of Queen Christina of Sweden, in all its biopic glory, complete with sumptuous court attire, duplicity and romance galore.

What sets this biographical film, based on a historic sovereign leader, apart from all the rest is its unique and brilliant synthesis of feminism and misogyny.

It isn’t the only historical drama motion picture to attempt it. Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” (1998), Michael Heart’s television series “The Tudors” (2007-2010) and Justin Chadwick’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008) all incorporated aspects of clearly defined Elizabethan-type era gender roles, with women taking a backseat to men by tending to domestic duties as they reigned supreme over them and the land.

On the other hand, none of the three films listed capitalized as much as this film did on the forbidden, voluptuous desires a woman might have while living in a man’s world.

After growing up and being told what to think and how to act by everyone because of her gender, it’s only natural for Christina to have a rebellious streak. She goes against the grain of society’s rules for women by sword fighting with her fellow suitors, taking horseback riding lessons from her superiors, trying on men’s clothing as a hobby and having illicit affairs of the heart behind closed doors.

“The Girl King” is true to its history and focuses not only on the gender issues that plagued Christina (Malin Buska) but also highlights her sexual awakening as well as her turbulent liaison with her lady in waiting Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon).

The chemistry is natural between the two actresses and their characters throughout the film, so much so that the viewer is left feeling brutal pangs of Christina’s sorrow of not being able to be with Ebba due to her duty to her people, her conservative court and her crown.

Christina’s story takes a dark, twisted turn when her sense of love and duty are at odds with each other.

And thus, the plot thickens.

What follows is a beautiful yet shocking final decision from Christina that had me John Bender-style “Breakfast Club” fist pumping all the way to the end.

In terms of acting, the viewer is swept into a wickedly dark yet satisfyingly enthralling performance by Buska as she commands your attention the moment you see her on the screen.

While I was at first skeptical of her portrayal of Queen Christina because of her monotonic line delivery, I would like to believe her doing so may have been intentional for the part.

After all, she was playing a young woman with manly mannerisms.

All in all, she was able to exemplify the sensual muliebrity as well as fierce virility that the real-life Christina possessed. Some up and coming actors would fall under the pressures of what the role would demand of them, but luckily that wasn’t the case for her.

This film is not just a put-your-feet-up, eat some popcorn kind of biopic flick, but also an uplifting, inspirational voice-piece for the injustices of chauvinism in the 1600s.

“The Girl King” will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in Woodland Theater.