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‘The Girl King’ a Swashbuckling Heroine Ahead of Her Time

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“The Girl King,” from Finnish director Mika Kaurismaki, is a film based on the well-documented history of the courageous, young Swedish Queen Kristina. With her reign during a period of war, and her significant influence on European culture, I don’t recall, as an American student studying world history, that this noble figure was mentioned much, if at all.

Generations of Swedish girls, however, including actress Malin Buska who portrays Kristina in “The Girl King,” grew up inspired by stories of the daring young monarch whose father insisted she be raised as though she was a prince, meaning an extensive education, and crowned with the king’s crown. In turn, she fought to educate her subjects. She focused on books, music and art while trying to end the long, religious war between Protestants and Catholics, including holding secret meetings with the opposition.

Through correspondence with Rene Descartes, she becomes intrigued with the idea of “free will,” a philosophy at odds with Sweden’s Lutheran belief in “God’s will.”

Conflicted over denouncing her country, her father, her people and her religion to live as the person she “wants to be,” she ultimately makes a decision that changes history.

Disney could easily model an animated heroine after the young and feisty free-thinker. Yet, the fact that part of Kristina’s tale involves an attraction to other women, and that she refused to marry and bear an heir to the throne, may have kept her from the history books. (Accomplishments by females in general have rarely gotten much ink in American history books.) The most prominent telling to date featured Swedish actress Greta Garbo, in a 1933 version that briefly alludes to an attraction to a woman, but fabricates a romance with a Spanish man.

In an exclusive interview with Goweho.com, the director discusses the film that took him 15 years to make.

LKS: What part of Queen Kristina’s story resonated with you?

Mika Kaurismaki: “She’s done so many things and you could easily make many different films of her. I concentrated on the period of years of her life when at 18 she becomes queen, and 10 years later she abdicates [1644-1654]. [I wanted] to show her free will … like a modern young woman trying to decide what to do with her life.

LKS: What was the bigger scandal, Kristina’s quest for knowledge or her sexuality?

MK: “The scandal was the conversion to Catholic, that she betrayed her father’s faith. Nowadays not a big deal, at that time it would be like the same thing if George Bush’s daughter would join Al Queda. And there was a war going on in Europe, so that was the scandal, I think that’s the reason she’s very controversial.

Now we have the same thing going on in Europe, its’ not that strange. So she’s very controversial because of the religious thing.

Of course the sexuality may be true, but in those days, it was much more, young women have intimate relationships. She maybe had taken it a little too far. It was … in those days the men were away at the war, the women stayed at home [relationships with other women] was OK.

LKS: How is she remembered in Swedish history, is it more about her sexuality or her conversion to Catholicism?

MK: It was more the religious ideas and the ideas of free will. I think that was a bigger issue than the sexuality. But that too, and I think the reason for the abdication, being a queen and marrying and producing an heir–if she had [just] had a secret relationship that would’ve been OK.

LKS: Malin Buska does a wonderful job capturing the spirit of a teenage girl who’s also expected to be a decisive monarch.

MK: She had only done one film before, and I happened to see the film. Right away I felt she could be our Kristina. She knew everything about Kristina, because her mother and grandmother were Kristina fans. Her second name is Kristina. So she had grown up with all these Kristina stories. I think she was born to play the part.

“The Girl King’s” limited release began Dec. 4 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Minneapolis, and is available on DVD and VOD on Dec. 8.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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