The Story (continued)
Queen Christina (1933)
They share another exquisite evening together. She sensuously eats grapes (from an improbable bowl of fruit - in winter) meltingly in the flickering firelight with him during their passionate, clandestine love affair.
They warmed and ripened in the Spanish sun. My hacienda is overrun with them. In the season of the grape harvest, the air smells purple. Purple grapes. (She kisses and caresses the bunch of grapes.)
In the film's most poetic, graceful, intimate, and lyrical sequence, she rises and surveys the entire physicality of the room - a love nest in which she has experienced passionate love. She slowly memorizes all the things in the bedroom so as not to forget them with the passage of time. She touches various hard and soft objects and pieces of furniture in the room, lingering at each and every stop: first the dresser and the candlestick holder. Her image is reflected in the dresser's mirror as she searches for the face of her lover - who watches passively from the center of the room. Other things are appraised and absorbed: the wall, a spinning wheel, wool, and the bed itself, where she lovingly caresses the soft pillow with her cheek. Sinking into it, she closes her eyelids - filmed in an extreme close-up. On the other side of the bed, she touches a religious picture hanging on the wall and embraces the massive wooden bedpost:
Don Antonio: What are you doing?
Christina: I have been memorizing the room. In the future, in my memory, I shall live a great deal in this room.
Don Antonio: You wait. I'll show you the whole living world.
She tells her lover how precious their time has been although he doesn't yet know that she is the queen of Sweden:
Christina: I have imagined happiness but happiness you cannot imagine. Happiness you must feel, joy you must feel. Oh, and this great joy I feel now. Antonio.
Don Antonio: What?
Christina: This is how the Lord must have felt when he first beheld the finished world with all his creatures breathing, living. (They kiss.)
Don Antonio: And to think a few snowdrifts might have separated us forever.
Christina: We might have been born in different centuries.
Don Antonio: No, I never would have permitted that. We're inevitable, don't you feel it?
Christina: I feel it. But you, how can you be so sure? You know me so little.
Don Antonio: That's true. There's a mystery in you.
Christina: Is there not in every human being?
Don Antonio: Yes. Tell me, you said you would, why did you come to this inn dressed as a man?
Christina: In my home, I'm very constrained. Everything is arranged very formally.
Don Antonio: A conventional household.
Christina: Very. I like to get away from it sometimes, to be free.
Don Antonio: I can understand that.
Christina: You're going to court. What if the Queen keeps you there?
Don Antonio: Let her try.
Christina: If half of the Queen's reputation is well-founded...
Don Antonio: After you, she'll be tiresome. Ah, to have found anyone in this wilderness would have been miracle enough but to have found you - ah, this is too improbable. I don't believe in you. You're an illusion. You'll vanish before my eyes.
The next morning, they part and say goodbyes with pledges: "I shall live for our meeting." Christina tells him that it is impossible for her to travel with him to Stockholm: "I must go alone." He promises that as soon as his official court business is concluded, they'll meet again in Stockholm and won't ever separate: "What if I never see you again?"
For the first time in the film, Christina wears an elegant feminine gown, a white dress that is embedded with sparkling diamonds. After summoning pale-faced Ebba, who has suffered sleepless nights after losing the Queen's "favor," Christina compassionately forgives her and grants her permission to marry: "You shall marry Count Jacob." Ebba compliments Christina's beauty: "Oh, your Majesty looks wonderful tonight. The Spanish envoy will be dazzled."
In the hallway, Count Magnus scolds the Queen for leaving the palace for five days without informing anyone of her whereabouts. She explains why she left: "To get away...from all of you." The scorned suitor notices her stunning loveliness: "You've never looked so lovely as you do now."
Seated on her regal throne, the Queen formally receives the Spanish ambassador with an official, trumpeted fanfare welcome. When he takes his first look at the Queen, he recoils in shock and silence. After composing himself, he delivers a letter from Spanish King Philip as part of his "special mission." She calls for a future "private audience" to meet with the envoy, and then graciously expresses public admiration for Spanish learning in the arts and sciences. He reciprocates and praises her internationalistic, pro-cultural and intellectual attitudes:
Christina: We admire greatly the prowess of your country, not only your skill in statecraft but in the sciences and in the arts.
Don Antonio: The repute you have for learning is known to all Europe.
Christina: We look forward to our further meeting with you. We would like news of your men of genius: of Velasquez and Calderon. We would hear willingly of your cities: Toledo and Cadiz, Madrid and Seville.
Don Antonio: My country could have no greater tribute than your Majesty's curiosity.
Christina: In honoring your great men, we elevate ourselves.
Later, when Don Antonio arrives to officially meet with Queen Christina in private, Count Magnus' jealousy is aroused and he gives the foreign ambassador a "friendly warning":
Magnus: The climate here, my Lord, is fit only to those who are used to it. It's not suited to foreigners. I advise you to protect yourself against it. You must be very careful.
Don Antonio: Is this, is this a threat, my Lord?
Magnus: It's a warning. A friendly warning.
Believing that the Queen actually has a reputation for promiscuity (twelve lovers in a year), Antonio appreciates the diversionary "royal jest" that has been played upon him. But he despairs as he explains how he has been dispatched to arrange a marriage between her and the Spanish sovereign:
Christina: Antonio, I feel just the same.
Don Antonio: I don't. I feel unlucky being the thirteenth.
Christina: Oh, but I was lying, terribly. And now you don't love me anymore?
Don Antonio: Don't despair, your Majesty. My master, the King of Spain, has the honor of asking your hand in marriage. It isn't pleasant to betray one's King, to dishonor him in a far country.
She laughs as he unveils a portrait of an unattractive-looking King Philip: "Oh, does he look like that? Ha, ha. I suppose he does. I have quite a collection of royal portraits. My suitors usually come in oil. And I've kept them, because I love a good painting. Ha, ha." Don Antonio feels ridiculed and spited, but she pacifies him and assures him that she loves him:
Don Antonio: Why did you go out of your way to make me ridiculous? All that idiotic talk of love and beauty that made my heart beat, and made me dream like a fool and talk like one.
Christina: I thought you would understand when you saw me again what had happened. That it had been so enchanting to be a woman, not a Queen, just a woman in a man's arms.
Don Antonio: Yes, if you'd left my heart alone.
Christina: But I fell in love with you. I love you Antonio. Look! (She pulls the dollar coin from her bodice) The coin you gave me for helping you. I've slept with it in my hand each night. Forgive me for being a Queen.
Don Antonio: What do you want of me?
Christina: What do I want? What? I want back that room in the inn, the snow that fell, the warm fire and the sweet hours, beloved one. (They kiss)
Don Antonio: Christina.
During the prolonged visit of the Spaniard, Count Magnus plots against Christina for "the good of Sweden," using hired agents to stir up popular resentment and to turn against the Queen and interloper Don Antonio with accusations of Swedish disloyalty, Spanish witchcraft, and fears of a non-Swede-blooded sovereign. Magnus also asks Prince Charles to "demand of the Queen that she send the Spaniard home." On a sleigh-ride with Don Antonio, she hears the townspeople denounce her foreign lover:
Evidently, my people who are said to love me, do not wish me to be happy.
When mobs with flaming torches gather in the streets, they storm the palace. In an inner consultation room, Chancellor Oxenstierna accuses the manipulative Lord Magnus of arousing the masses against the Queen on account of the Spaniard. When she is told that "the people resent this man" because he interferes with her proposed marriage to Prince Charles, Queen Christina holds them responsible for stirring up the people's false hope: "You have fed them this hope when you have known all the time that I have no wish to gratify it." She asserts that she has no plans to accept King Philip's offer of marriage, and denies the need to send the ambassador home. She confronts the fears of her political aides regarding her amorous relationship with Don Antonio:
Why? Do I peer into the lives of my subjects and dictate to them whom they shall love? Will I serve them less if I'm happy? What strangely-foolish title is it that calls me ruler. Even what concerns me most dearly, I am to have no voice. It is intolerable! There is a freedom which is mine and which the state cannot take away for the unreasonable tyranny of the mob, and to the malicious tyranny of palace intrigue. I shall not submit! Know this, all of you.
Rather than commanding her General to have the palace guards arrest mob leaders or fire on the mobs gathered around the palace, she orders the disaffected people to be allowed in. From the top of the castle staircase, she speaks to her subjects - alone - after dismissing the guards: "I am not afraid of my subjects." The angry citizens are subdued by the lone woman's steely-eyed presence, as she rationally explains the job she is doing by right of inheritance:
My business is governing and I have the knack of it as you have yours for your trade by inheritance. My father was a king, and his father before him. My father died for Sweden and I live for her. Now my good people, go home to your work and leave me to mine. My blessing on all of you.
As Don Antonio rides in a sleigh through the streets to the Embassy, he is accosted by sword-wielding townsfolk. He defends himself until Count Magnus appears and rescues him - intervening to provide 'personal protection and escort' - but in fact to hold himself against his will: "...I can take no chances of complicating our splendid relations with Spain." The treacherous and jealous Count pressures Queen Christina into "one safe course" - signing a passport for Don Antonio's return to Spain. After some agonized thought, Christina commands Count Magnus: "Prepare the passport for the Spanish envoy." The official passport will ensure her lover's safe journey to the border with Magnus, who has been appointed as his escort. Don Antonio challenges Count Magnus to a duel on "neutral ground" beyond the frontier borders of Sweden. In a secret note delivered by Ebba, Don Antonio learns that Christina intends to rendezvous with him at the boat that will transport him away.
Attired in a long, flowing white robe, Christina makes her way to the throne room late one evening, holding a candelabra to light the way through the dark corridors. There, the discontented Queen struggles with Oxenstierna regarding her duty and future, telling her long-time advisor that she has tired of being a symbol and now longs to be free:
Christina: There is too great a burden you put on me. I have grown up in a great man's shadow. All my life I've been a symbol, a symbol of eternal changelessness, an abstraction. A human being is mortal and changeable with desires and impurities, hopes and despairs. I'm tired of being a symbol, Chancellor. I long to be a human being, this longing I cannot suppress.
Chancellor: And yet you must, you will. His hand is upon you, the King's.
Christina: I have always listened to you with awe, Oxenstierna...Yet something in me cries out that this cannot be true, that one must live for oneself. After all Chancellor, one's own life is all one has.
Chancellor: Yes, your Majesty, that is all one has. Therefore, you must give it up to your duty. Greatness demands all.
Christina: Am I great, Chancellor? I feel so little and helpless and futile.
Chancellor: Yes, your Majesty, when you are alone. But tomorrow when this great hall is filled with the pride of your realm, you will meet the occasion, you will do your duty, you will marry Prince Charles.
Christina: Duty. Duty.
Chancellor: My heritage, your Majesty, and yours.
In a classic abdication scene, the beloved Christina (wearing a monarch's crown and regal robe with a long train) publicly renounces her throne and duty in favor of love and romance. After agonizing over the issue of marrying her cousin Prince Charles, she ultimately decides to buck convention, reject the marriage, abdicate the throne, and nominate Charles as her successor:
The question of the succession has long been the subject of my earnest consideration. I am come here today to tell you my decision. There is one among us who has served the state faithfully in war and peace, one who is also related to me by blood. I speak of the Prince Palatine Charles Gustavus. I believe I shall be in agreement with you in saying that above all others, he is the man best fitted for the government of this kingdom. The Prince has done me the honor of asking my hand in marriage. The Prince has my answer. I have given him the reasons why I cannot accept this offer. In the absence of an heir of my blood, our Constitution gives me the right to nominate for your approval my successor. I believe no one would gratify your wishes better than Prince Charles Gustavus. I am resolved, therefore, here and now, to place in your hands my abdication from the throne of Sweden.
She expresses her gratefulness to her loyal subjects who protest that she stay, but she remains determined: "...but there is a voice in our souls that tells us what to do and we obey. I have no choice." She removes the "emblems of power" - her sceptre, the heavy, burdensome crown from her head, and her regal robe. With tears in her eyes, she says farewell - as she again memorializes the past by keeping everything in her memory:
And now, farewell. I thank Almighty God who caused me to be born of a royal stock and raised me to be a Queen over so large and mighty a kingdom. I thank too those nobles who defended the state when I was a child and all of you for the fidelity and attachment you've shown. Let me look at you once more. And so, let me remember you with love and loyalty until memory is no more. God bless you. Farewell.
In the bleak finale, she leaves the castle in a carriage; at the border she rides horseback. In another carriage close to Sweden's frontier border, Don Antonio anticipates meeting Christina on a boat sailing to "the islands of the moon...a place I've never been." A sword duel commences between the vindictive Count Magnus and Don Antonio - the outcome is left unknown until Christina arrives at the ship and discovers Pedro and Don Antonio's courtiers standing around her mortally-wounded lover. She promises never to leave him as he tragically dies in her arms:
Don Antonio: Have you said goodbye to your country?
Christina: Yes, to everything but you.
Don Antonio: How sweet your eyes are.
Christina: Shhh, you mustn't talk.
Don Antonio: When the wind is with us, we sail.
Don Antonio: Spain - my home is on a white cliff overlooking the sea. You'll never leave me, will you...?
Christina: No, never.
Don Antonio: Your Majesty.
Christina: Shhh, you must rest. Rest.
Sorrowful, she mourns his death with tears and grief. Left without her Kingship or a lover, she abandons Sweden forever - in exile. As she embarks ("the tide is full and the wind is with us"), she stands mutely like a figurehead at the wooden, curved prow of her sailing ship. A lengthy, lingering zoom approaches for a close-up shot of her beautiful face with the wind in her hair. In the stunning final image - an immortalized film moment, she conveys a blankly enigmatic, immortal, Mona Lisa look, as she gazes into nothingness. She sails for his homeland and his house on a white cliff overlooking the sea.
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AMC Filmcritic's Review of Queen Christina